Jets need growth from within to surpass last year's talent level

Even though the roster is a work in progress, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick in limbo, we're deep enough into the offseason to form a preliminary opinion on the New York Jets.

On paper, their starting lineup simply isn't as good as it was in 2015. They lost two of their better players in free agency -- Chris Ivory and Damon Harrison -- and it'll be tough for Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall to duplicate career years. Now, before you start firing off angry Tweets, let's add a qualifier:

The current roster has more depth than a year ago, and the growth potential is greater because there's more talent among the younger players. If last weekend's draft yields two or three immediate contributors, and if the key players from last year's draft continue to develop ... well, now you're talking.

A post-draft review of the roster, listing key veterans and draft picks:

QUARTERBACK -- Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg.

Analysis: General manager Mike Maccagnan says they could carry four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, assuming Fitzpatrick re-signs. It wouldn't be an ideal situation because they'd be short at another position or two, but they might not have a choice. Each of the four would have some degree of value, either in the short term (Fitzpatrick and Smith) or the long term (Petty and Hackenberg). This will be a hot-button issue all the way to the final cutdown.

RUNNING BACK -- Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Zac Stacy, Khiry Robinson.

Analysis: They don't have a proven thumper anymore -- adios, Ivory -- but this is a versatile group with a lot of experience. Barring injury, there's no reason for the Jets to tinker with this position.

FULLBACK -- Tommy Bohanon.

Analysis: Bohanon is a solid, blue-collar player, but it would be wise to add some competition.

WIDE RECEIVER -- Marshall, Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa, Devin Smith, Kenbrell Thompkins, Jeremy Ross, Charone Peake.

Analysis: There's a drop off after Marshall and Decker, and that's a concern because everybody knows they live in three- and four-receiver packages. Enunwa flashed some ability in a hybrid receiver/tight end role, but he doesn't stretch the field. Smith is supposed to be that guy, but he's only five months removed from ACL surgery. He probably won't be ready for training camp, and he might be pushing it to make the start of the regular season. Peake, a seventh-round pick, has the speed to excite, but toughness and durability are question marks.

TIGHT END -- Kellen Davis, Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld, Brandon Bostick, Wes Saxton, Adrien Robinson.

Analysis: It's the same unproductive group as last season, except Jeff Cumberland is gone and Amaro is healthy. The organization evidently believes Amaro, coming off a missed season, can be the pass-catching tight end the offense sorely lacked. Or maybe it just doesn't care about the tight-end position in Chan Gailey's Wide World of Wide Receivers.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE -- Ryan Clady, Breno Giacomini, Ben Ijalana, Brent Qvale, Brandon Shell.

Analysis: This was a pre-draft need, but it wasn't addressed until the fifth round (Shell). They targeted Clady via trade before the draft, sending D'Brickashaw Ferguson into retirement -- or vice versa. It'll be an upgrade if Clady can stay on the field. Giacomini is a marginal starter, but he doesn't have to worry about Shell until next season.

GUARD/CENTER -- James Carpenter, Brian Winters, Nick Mangold, Dakota Dozier, Wesley Johnson.

Analysis: The Jets opted to stand pat up the middle with Mangold, Carpenter and Winters. The weak link is Winters, but he's still better than the guys on the bench. If a proven right guard somehow becomes available, the Jets would have to explore it, as long as it's not cost-prohibitive.

DEFENSIVE LINE -- Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Jarvis Jenkins.

Analysis: The Jets will miss their anchor, Harrison, but this still is a quality group. Williams will be better in year two, and that's a scary proposition for opponents. The toughest challenge for Todd Bowles will be keeping everybody happy with playing time. It might be a while until the disgruntled Wilkerson shows up.

INSIDE LINEBACKER -- David Harris, Erin Henderson, Bruce Carter, Darron Lee, Taiwan Jones.

Analysis: Henderson is slated to start opposite Harris, but you'll see Lee in a variety of roles. The first-round pick is a blitz-and-cover linebacker with tremendous speed. He'll be deployed as a stealth bomber amid all the big tanks.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER -- Lorenzo Mauldin, Jordan Jenkins, Trevor Reilly, Freddie Bishop.

Analysis: The future is bright with Mauldin and Jenkins, but there could be growing pains. Jenkins, a third-round pick, will start out on the strong side, but this will be transition because he played mostly in a three-point stance at Georgia. The Jets could use a veteran to steady the ship. Calvin Pace, anyone?

SAFETY -- Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist, Rontez Miles, Dion Bailey.

Analysis: Pryor and Gilchrist form a solid starting tandem. They could use another safety with coverage skills.

CORNERBACK -- Darrelle Revis, Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams, Dee Milliner, Dexter McDougle, Juston Burris, Darryl Morris.

Analysis: They really could've use a plug-and-play corner in the draft but opted for Lee and Hackenberg in the first two rounds. Burris, chosen in the fourth, has a chance because he's experienced in a man-to-man system. For now, Skrine is being counted on to be a full-time player. Could Milliner be this year's Quinton Coples?

SPECIALISTS -- Nick Folk (PK), Lachlan Edwards (P), Tom Hackett (P), Tanner Purdum (LS).

Analysis: The Aussie invasion -- Edwards versus Hackett -- will keep things lively in the battle of the "Wonders from Down Under."