Storylines for this week's episode of "Hard Knocks" focused on the New York Jets' fringe players, laying the groundwork for drama on final cutdown day in a couple weekends.
Most revealing from my perspective was the chance to eavesdrop on general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan discussing their roster numbers. On a dry-erase board, Tannenbaum tried to do the math and gave a glimpse of what the 53-man roster will look like, more or less.
Next to the team's official depth chart, Tannenbaum scrawled out the number of players they plan to keep at each position, with the caveat they can adjust for special teams.
Offense (25 players):
Five running backs
Five wide receivers (including Santonio Holmes)
Four tight ends
Eight offensive linemen
Defense (23 players):
Six defensive linemen
Four outside linebackers
Four inside linebackers
Five cornerbacks (I think because I couldn't decipher the abbreviation)
Four safeties (I think for the same reason)
Add a kicker, punter and long-snapper, and that's 51 players, leaving two special-teams spots for everybody else to fight over.
Injuries, of course, can impact the numbers. The breakdown was done before defensive end Ropati Pitoitua suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Saturday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
Pitoitua's injury was significant for Rodrique Wright, who had an "X" next to his name on the depth chart, suggesting the Jets planned to cut him.
"Hey, you going to make this [expletive] team?" Ryan says to Wright on the sideline after learning of Pitoitua's injury. "This kid just tore his [expletive] Achilles. Or do I need to pick somebody else up?"
"Hard Knocks" revealed others with an "X" next to his name or a "PS" to indicate practice squad. For effect, "Hard Knocks" slowly panned all the name plates to set up the scene. That helped determine who'd been labeled in the shots that showed Tannenbaum sketching out the roster.
These were the other "X" players still on the roster I could decipher thanks to the high-def on my big-screen plasma: quarterback Kellen Clemens, running back Chauncey Washington, center Robby Felix, guard Marlon Davis and tackles Dan Gay and Michael Turkovich. An "X" also appeared next to a blank spot at fullback, suggesting Jason Davis.
Not a lot of surprises, but interesting nevertheless.
Yet based on Ryan's comments about his third-stringers late in the 9-3 victory over the Panthers, there's plenty of room to make an impression over the final couple weeks.
"Guys, we're dead with this group. We have replacements?" Ryan says into his headset to his defensive assistants in the press box. Ryan's voice gets angrier. "Do we have any replacements? Get me the No. Twos out there! I'm not going to lose this [expletive] game! Give me the [expletive] Twos out there. Finish the [expletive] job!
"We're leaving the Twos out there if we have to. Finish the game. I don't give two [expletive]. Some of those guys can't play dead in a B western."
Washington, for example, went from having an "X" next to his name to receiving a game ball for a jarring hit on punt coverage and strong running.