As the final round of NFL roster cuts looms large heading into the last preseason weekend, it is time for predictions on what the New York Jets’ final 53-man roster and depth chart will look like. We begin today with the most important position on the field, quarterback.
Starter: Geno Smith
Reserves: Michael Vick, Matt Simms
The Jets ended their farce of a quarterback competition following the third preseason game, when they officially named Smith the starting quarterback. This was a long expected move, and it was absolutely the correct decision. Smith still has a chance to develop into a quality quarterback for the Jets as he enters his second season, while Vick is no more than a stopgap solution.
Smith had a solid preseason, completing 69.7% of his passes for 268 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception while rushing 8 times for 47 yards and touchdown. Equally important, Smith didn’t take any sacks or fumble the ball, and the interception certainly appeared to be David Nelson’s fault.
The Jets are banking on Smith developing quickly, as they feel they have a playoff caliber roster around him. If Smith can take a big step forward, then the Jets are capable of competing in the weak AFC. If not, it will be back to the drawing board at quarterback. However, it is clearly in the team’s best long term interest to try to develop Smith, rather than hope Vick can turn back the clock for a year or two.
If Smith does falter, however, Vick will be waiting in the wings. He had a solid preseason himself, completing 60.0% of his passes for 122 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 8 times for 41 yards. However, Vick has never been able to stay healthy, and at 34 years old there’s no reason to think he will start now.
Vick has also been extremely turnover prone over the last few seasons, and the reality is that his name is bigger than his talent at this stage of his career. Vick is still a slightly better player than Smith, but not so much better that it was worth mortgaging the team’s future, which is essentially the opinion held by John Idzik and Rex Ryan. It remains to be see if Vick will be used in a Wildcat role, but for now his most important job is being Smith’s mentor.
The battle for the No. 3 quarterback job appears to be over as well, as Simms has completely outclassed sixth round pick Tajh Boyd in the preseason. Boyd only played in the second game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he looked awful. Boyd completed just 1/5 passes for 6 yards, and he missed several easy throws. That performance is similar to what he’s done in practice, and he simply doesn’t have the accuracy he needs to be successful.
By comparison, Simms has completed 68.8% of his passes for 202 yards and a score, and his experience in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense gives him a leg up over Boyd. There is the remote possibility that Boyd could absolutely dazzle the coaching staff in the final preseason game and steal a roster spot, but it is much more likely that the Jets will sign him to the practice squad with an eye towards next season. There has also been some discussion of the Jets only keeping two quarterbacks, but given Vick’s injury history it seems much wiser to keep Simms on the final roster.
There isn’t much suspense left at quarterback for the Jets after an offseason of speculation, and they are standing by Smith as the starter. Time will tell if that decision will pay off, but it is certainly the best course of action for the franchise’s future. The Jets have two backups they like as well, and they enter this season feeling far better about their quarterback situation than they did last year.