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It's hot outside, but Jets are treading on thin ice due to roster make-up

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Not the Same 'Old' Jets: The Jets have enough starting talent to be a playoff team, but they'd better keep their fingers crossed because one or two key injuries would cripple them. Their depth is suspect because it's so young. They will open Sunday with 12 rookies (nearly 25 percent of the 53-man roster), a stunning number. Only two teams went into the weekend with more rookies than the Jets -- the rebuilding Cleveland Browns (17) and Seattle Seahawks (15).

Only seven of the Jets' 28 backups (non-specialists) have started more than one game in the NFL -- Geno Smith, Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa, Jarvis Jenkins, Bruce Carter, Marcus Williams and Antonio Allen. In reality, Enunwa and Williams are quasi-starters because they will play a lot. The lack of veteran depth is most glaring at cornerback, wide receiver and offensive line, a problem spot across the league.

Why so green? Two reasons: Recognizing the team is top-heavy with older players, general manager Mike Maccagnan is trying to infuse young talent into the pipeline. Makes sense, right? They should reap the benefits in a year or two, when the newbies start to mature.

Another reason is money. The Jets went into the final cuts with only $1.1 million in cap room, according to the NFLPA -- barely enough to sign a practice squad. Rookies are cheap labor, and keeping so many of them made it easier to maneuver from a cap standpoint. You always want to have a few million at your disposal, just in case you need to sign injury replacements. Now they have $5.7 million in cap space, including a $2.5 million savings by restructuring Buster Skrine's contract. Maccagnan isn't a fan of re-working contracts. What he did with Skrine, pushing money into later years, is an illustration of the dire cap situation.

Bottom line: Young can be good, but for a win-now team such as the Jets, young can be scary.

2. The post-Brick era: When the Jets run their first offensive play against the Cincinnati Bengals, it'll mark the first time since Jan. 1, 2006, that a player not named D'Brickashaw Ferguson is manning the left tackle position. He played every snap for 10 years, save for one gadget play, so it'll be weird not seeing No. 60 on the left side.

His capable replacement is Ryan Clady, who hasn't played a regular-season or postseason snap since Jan. 11, 2015 -- his final game with the Denver Broncos. Remember, he missed last season due to knee surgery. Clady has a financial incentive to stay healthy. As part of his contract with the Jets, he earns a $62,500 roster bonus for every game he plays.

3. Change in plans: When Matt Forte signed in March, he mentioned he was looking forward to being in an offense that utilizes the fullback. He didn't have a blocking back with the Chicago Bears. In fact, he had only one carry last season in a two-back set, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. So what happens? The Jets cut their only experienced fullback, Tommy Bohanon, who played 25 percent of the snaps last season. He was replaced by Julian Howsare, a converted college linebacker who has never played fullback in a game, college or pro (not counting the preseason). It looks as if the Jets will be de-emphasizing the fullback position.

Why'd they keep Howsare? As a former linebacker, he was a better tackler than Bohanon on special teams. That helped his cause.

4. Breaking bread: Ryan Fitzpatrick invited Forte and a few other teammates over to his house for a Labor Day weekend barbecue. Forte brought his wife and two kids.

"He has a daughter named Nahla, which I thought was pretty cool," Fitzpatrick said.

This is one of the reasons why Fitzpatrick is respected in the locker room; he makes an effort to know his teammates off the field. Forte believes that can only help on-field chemistry.

5. No pressure, kid (yeah, right): The Jets have faith in rookie punt/kickoff returner Jalin Marshall, but they're covering their bases just in case. This past Friday, they worked out free-agent returner Dexter McCluster, formerly of the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.

Marshall doesn't lack confidence. In the Dayton Daily News, his hometown paper, he's quoted this week as saying, "I left college early knowing I was ready. I guess I keep proving people wrong that I’m ready to take that next step and be an NFL star.”

6. Hiding injuries a trend? The Jets weren't happy with the Baltimore Ravens and Chiefs last week. They cut linebacker Victor Ochi and tight end Brian Parker, respectively, both of whom ended up at the Jets' facility and failed physicals. Parker was claimed on waivers, Ochi was poised to join the practice squad. Teams are supposed to use the "waived/injured" designation when they release banged-up players, but the Chiefs and Ravens didn't. One agent told me it's becoming prevalent around the league, as teams try to circumvent the rules in an attempt to save injury-settlement money and stash players on their own practice squad.

Ironically, the New England Patriots, known to bend a rule or two, played it by the book with cornerback Darryl Roberts. He was waived/injured and claimed by the Jets, who expect him to miss at least another week with a foot injury. They knew what they were getting. As for Parker, he was released by the Jets. They hope to sign Ochi when his shoulder heals in a few weeks.

7. The Pope of Florham Park: The Jets ruined the Seahawks' plans by claiming running back Troymaine Pope on waivers. Pope, one of the league's leading rushers in the preseason, told me the Seahawks were planning to add him to the practice squad if he cleared waivers.

Pope said he grew up rooting for the Jets -- "my favorite team" -- which seems weird because he was raised in Alabama. Why the Jets? He said he followed all the New York teams as a kid. His best friend was a Patriots fan, and they wagered every time the two teams played. That cost him money, but the admission will endear him to Jets fans.

8. The $4 million mistake: Eventually, the Jets will waive recently-released cornerback Dee Milliner from their injured-reserve list, but his $4 million cap hit won't go with him. They get stuck with his full cap charge because his 2016 salary is guaranteed. There is a silver lining: If he signs with another team this season, the Jets would get a cap credit in 2017 for the amount of his new salary, presumably the veteran's minimum.

9. Hacking it: Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey offered a brutally honest assessment of Christian Hackenberg's preseason: "He had some great throws. He had some awful throws. When you see the great throws, you know it’s there." I suppose patience and optimism are two "must" traits to be a coach.

10. Never forget: Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and many of my memories involve the Jets because I was covering them for the New York Daily News.

I remember how hard it was asking players if they knew anyone who perished in the World Trade Center. I remember Herm Edwards ending a practice early because no one was into football. I remember the team going to Lower Manhattan to distribute supplies to first responders. I remember going to cover the event as a journalist but tossing my notebook so I could help the players as they unloaded cases of water bottles from a truck. I remember the look on Vinny Testaverde's face on Sept. 23, after the Jets beat the Patriots in the first post-9/11 game, as he described the poster on the wall near his locker in the old Foxboro Stadium. The poster included the names of fallen firefighters, and one of them -- much to his surprise -- was an old high school teammate from Long Island.

Let's all remember on Sunday.