Jets solve QB riddle by keeping four in 53-man roster projection

The Jets might not be comfortable with Bryce Petty as their backup quarterback. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets must cut their roster to 75 by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACK (4): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg

An opposing personnel director told me he doesn't think the Jets will keep all four quarterbacks, and that Smith will be the odd man out because he's in the final year of his contract. Sure, maybe they can trade him for a conditional seventh-round pick if somebody is desperate (hey, the Philadelphia Eagles got something for Matt Barkley last year), but would obtaining a low-level asset outweigh the risk of entrusting the No. 2 job to the unproven Petty? I don't think so. Petty has done enough to stick around, but his lack of regular-season experience is scary. It's not ideal, but four is the way to go.

RUNNING BACK (3): Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Khiry Robinson

Coming off a broken leg, Robinson has yet to play in the preseason, but he's getting closer. It may take him a few weeks to find a role, but the coaches are willing to wait because they like his upside. Forte finally is healthy after battling a cranky hamstring. He could be the first- and second-down back, with Powell handling third-down duties.

FULLBACK (1): Tommy Bohanon

This is his fourth season. Not bad for a seventh-round pick.

WIDE RECEIVER (7): Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa, Kenbrell Thompkins, Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake

There's terrific competition for the final spots between rookies Anderson, Marshall, Peake and veteran Jeremy Ross. It might be a stretch to carry seven, but there's some good young talent on the back end of the depth chart. Ross is a tough cut because he can return punts and kickoffs, but so can Jalin Marshall. Anderson has racked up 203 receiving yards and Peake gets the benefit of the doubt because he's a draft pick. Chances are, these decisions will stretch into Week 1, as they try to maneuver the bottom of the roster. Devin Smith (knee) was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he's not eligible to return until Week 7.

TIGHT END (3): Kellen Davis, Zach Sudfeld, Jace Amaro

Frankly, it wouldn't shock me if Amaro gets cut. After a promising start in training camp, the former second-round pick hasn't generated much production in the games. He was in uniform on Saturday but didn't play. Maybe it was because of a nagging groin injury; maybe not. Sudfeld is heavily involved in special teams, helping his chances. Tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson called Davis one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, so it doesn't look like he's going anywhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Ryan Clady, James Carpenter, Nick Mangold, Brian Winters, Brent Qvale, Ben Ijalana, Wesley Johnson, Dakota Dozier, Brandon Shell

Right tackle Breno Giacomini (back) isn't close to being game-ready, so it makes sense to keep him on the PUP list, shelving him for six games. Qvale has started the last two games at Giacomini's spot, so he has the edge over Ijalana, who also backs up Clady. Don't be surprised if they pick up a veteran tackle in the coming days, but the chances of finding a starting-caliber player are remote. This will be a redshirt year for Shell, a fifth-round pick.

DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Jarvis Jenkins, Deon Simon

Sheldon Richardson won't be on the opening-day roster because of a one-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. When he returns, the Jets will have five starting-caliber defensive linemen. We'll give a slight edge to Simon for the last spot because he's the only backup with nose-tackle ability, but undrafted rookie Lawrence Thomas remains in the conversation for a roster spot. It depends on the severity of a shoulder injury.

LINEBACKER (9): David Harris, Erin Henderson, Lorenzo Mauldin, Mike Catapano, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Bruce Carter, Julian Stanford, Josh Martin

The coaches went into camp hoping two of the young outside linebackers would separate from the crowd, but that hasn't happened. Jenkins missed a week with a calf injury, and Mauldin encountered a bumpy road on his way to becoming an every-down player. As a result, you'll probably see a committee approach, with Catapano working his way into the mix. Lee, their first-round pick, will play a lot in sub packages and could replace Henderson in the base at times. Carter, Stanford and Martin are core special-teamers, but Martin could be affected by an ankle injury; he was on crutches after Saturday's game. The odd men out are Trevor Reilly and Freddie Bishop.

SECONDARY (9): Darrelle Revis, Buster Skrine, Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist, Marcus Williams, Juston Burris, Dee Milliner, Rontez Miles, Ronald Martin

The big question involves Milliner, who has struggled in the preseason. The former first-round pick has the 13th-highest cap number ($4 million) on the team, way too much for a No. 4 corner. Problem is, his money is guaranteed and they wouldn't save anything by cutting him. They could save $2.1 million if they trade him. The coaches like Burris, a fourth-round pick, and they'd like to get him on the field as the fourth corner. The oft-injured Dexter McDougle is on the wrong side of the bubble.

SPECIALISTS (3): Nick Folk, Lachlan Edwards, Tanner Purdum

Undrafted rookie Ross Martin finished with a bang, making a 55-yard field goal on Saturday night, but it wasn't enough to unseat Folk. Martin was waived on Sunday, but he should draw interest from other teams.