FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets roster heading into the 2018 season (starters in bold):
QUARTERBACK (2): Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
There’s no watch-and-learn period for Darnold, who is poised to become the youngest opening-day starter in modern history. He has a chance to be special, but there will be growing pains. McCown will pull down a cool $10 million as the backup/mentor/assistant coach/resident mensch.
The Jets have two backs of comparable ability. Over the last two seasons, Powell has 2,052 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns; Crowell has 2,306 and nine touchdowns. Powell is better in the passing game, Crowell brings a little more thump in the running game. Look for them to split the workload.
FULLBACK (1): Lawrence Thomas
Frankly, it’s a surprise he made the team after a so-so camp. He shouldn’t get too comfy because things can change quickly.
This may be the most unproven tight-end corps in the league – only 26 combined career receptions. That’s the bad news; the good news is Herndon and Leggett have intriguing upside. Herndon is the better all-around prospect because he can block; don’t be surprised if he’s starting by midseason.
The Jets’ wide receivers catch a lot of flak for not having a true No. 1, but it’s the only group in the NFL with four players that have produced at least one 800-yard receiving season in their careers. The crafty Kearse will become Darnold’s security blanket once he recovers from an abdominal injury, which may take a few weeks. Roberts sticks as the return specialist.
The analytics say this is a pedestrian line, especially in the running game. Beachum and Winters missed significant camp time, meaning the starting five has yet to play a single snap together in a game. The Jets need Beachum to stay upright because their tackle depth is highly suspect. It’s a new scheme (outside zone), so there will be an adjustment period.
This group should be stout against the run. The question is, can it generate a pass rush? Williams, playing for a long-term contract, looked terrific in the preseason, but he will see a steady diet of double teams. There’s a lot of pressure on Shepherd, who will be asked to replace Muhammad Wilkerson.
It’s time for Lee to live up to his draft status. Miscast in a 3-4 front, the former first-round pick never will be a force as a “box” linebacker, but he should be good in space because of his athleticism – and he’s not. Yet. Williamson is a tackling machine, but will struggle in coverage. Both he and Lee will be every-down players.
This is the weakest position on the team. Jenkins is a solid run defender on the strong side, but where’s the pass-rushing threat? After failing in their bid to acquire Khalil Mack, the Jets probably will use a committee approach at the “rush” linebacker position.
The Jets expect big years out of Adams and Maye, the backbones to what should be a good secondary. Adams will be a force in the box, but he must be more active in pass coverage. Maye could start slowly after missing time with a surgically repaired ankle. Wilcox will be a hybrid safety/linebacker, a la Deone Bucannon.
The Jets are counting on Johnson, the $73 million man, to be a lockdown corner. If he can neutralize the opponents’ No. 1 receiver, it’ll allow the coaches to be more creative with their pressure schemes. Claiborne and Skrine should be fine in the No. 2 and No. 3 roles, respectively. Can they survive without a consistent pass rush?
Myers arrived late, but he impressed in the final two preseason games. How ‘bout that 58-yard field goal? Special teams could be shaky this season.