Jets could have eight starters in first or second year, led by Jamal Adams

The New York Jets could have as many as 11 new starters when the NFL season opens. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Josh McCown): After moving on from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, the Jets flirted with several veterans before settling on McCown, 38, a consummate pro who brings wisdom and positive energy to the quarterback room. Unfortunately his recent track record doesn't measure up to his off-the-field intangibles. From 2014 to 2016, he was 2-20 as a starter with 29 touchdowns, 24 interceptions and a league-low 45.4 Total QBR (among 33 qualified quarterbacks). The organization is hoping Christian Hackenberg claims the job.

Running back (Matt Forte/Bilal Powell): Both players will get the rock -- a lot. They're the most accomplished players on a talent-starved offense, both capable of being featured in the running and passing games. Forte and Powell combined for 2,186 yards from scrimmage last season; they must exceed that total if the Jets have any hope of being respectable.

Wide receiver (Quincy Enunwa): Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are gone, so Enunwa steps into the No. 1 role. He was one of the most improved players on the team in 2016, and he'll have to continue that ascent as the anchor of the rebuilt receiving corps. He's the team leader with 80 career catches. Yeah, we're talking about an unproven unit.

Wide receiver (Robby Anderson): A year ago, he was a no-name rookie from Temple just looking to make the team. Now he's being counted on to start. Anderson has blinding speed, but he's still raw in terms of his route running and ability to read coverages. He has a Sept. 11 court date in Miami, where he was charged in May with resisting arrest.

Wide receiver (ArDarius Stewart): The rookie from Alabama is playing catch-up after missing most of the offseason because of groin and thumb surgeries, but he'll have a chance to snag a key role, if healthy. He caught 54 passes for a 16-yard average and eight touchdowns last year for the Crimson Tide.

Tight end (Eric Tomlinson): Who? Tomlinson, who played 133 offensive snaps last season (no catches), could start by default. That's because Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the projected starter, faces a two-game suspension. Tomlinson is a blocker, not a receiver. That could open the door for rookie Jordan Leggett, who is a receiver, not a blocker.

Left tackle (Kelvin Beachum): Behold the prize of the Jets' free-agent class. They gave him a $12 million guarantee to protect the blind side of their quarterback, whomever it is. Beachum doesn't look like a left tackle (only 6 feet 3), but he's surprisingly athletic. Question: Can his surgically repaired knee, which hampered him last season, hold up?

Left guard (James Carpenter): This is one position they don't have to worry about. Carpenter, their most consistent player on a week-to-week basis, is the best free-agent signing of GM Mike Maccagnan's regime.

Center (Wesley Johnson): The Jets are replacing one of the greatest players in franchise history in Nick Mangold with a guy who has started only nine games. Risky? Yeah, you might say that.

Right guard (Brian Winters): He's one of only three draft picks still on the roster who received a second contract from the Jets. (The others are Powell and Muhammad Wilkerson.) Despite rotator cuff surgery, Winters cashed in with a four-year, $29 million deal in the offseason. The injury bears watching.

Right tackle (Brandon Shell): The Jets are paying Ben Ijalana starter's money ($5.5 million), but it sounds as if Shell could get the nod over Ijalana and Brent Qvale. Ijalana is the best of the three, but they like Shell's upside.


Defensive end (Muhammad Wilkerson): He's the big-money man -- a $15 million salary for the year, $7 million more than the next-closest player on the team. Wilkerson, coming off a bitterly disappointing season, is primed for a big rebound. With so many young players, he needs to become a leader.

Defensive end (Leonard Williams): He's the best player on the team -- and still only 23 years old. After making his first Pro Bowl as an injury replacement, Big Cat's goal is to make the Pro Bowl as a starter and record double-digit sacks for the first time. Don't bet against him.

Defensive tackle (Sheldon Richardson): For the first time in three years he doesn't have a suspension hanging over his head. Hey, that's progress, right? Entering a contract year, he should be highly motivated. With old locker room foe Brandon Marshall playing for the New York Giants, Richardson can direct his venom at opposing quarterbacks instead of teammates.

Weak inside linebacker (Darron Lee): The 2016 first-round pick never got a chance to show off his 4.4-second speed because of a high ankle sprain that slowed him most of the year. If Lee doesn't make a quantum leap this season, something is wrong. He's being investigated by the NFL for an off-field incident that occurred in June.

Middle linebacker (Demario Davis): Davis 2.0 will be better than the original version, he says. He promises to be faster and better in coverage than before. He's so happy to be back with the Jets, and out of Cleveland, that he took a $2.7 million pay cut after his June trade. He's the likely replacement for David Harris, the second-leading tackler in franchise history.

Strong outside linebacker (Jordan Jenkins): If Jenkins can build on his late-season momentum, the Jets will have a solid, edge-setting linebacker with the ability to contribute as a pass-rusher. He concentrated his offseason on improving as a pass-rusher and hopes to increase his rookie sack total (2.5).

Weak outside linebacker (Lorenzo Mauldin): This is a pivotal year for the former third-round pick, who hasn't developed as quickly as they had hoped (6.5 sacks in two years). New linebackers coach Kevin Greene, the Hall of Famer, is trying to get Mauldin to be more physical. Off the field, he faces a misdemeanor assault charge.

Cornerback (Morris Claiborne): You can't say he lacks confidence. Despite an injury-plagued career, Claiborne -- a former first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys -- said he still believes he can be the best corner in the NFL. This will be a boom-or-bust pickup for the Jets, who feel he can thrive now that he's out of Dallas' Cover 2 scheme.

Cornerback (Juston Burris): Underutilized as a rookie (even the coaches admit that), Burris will overtake Buster Skrine as the No. 2 corner -- assuming he continues to build on his strong spring.

Strong safety (Jamal Adams): Drafted sixth overall, Adams has a chance to be a star. Scouts say he's the complete package, physically and mentally. He's a natural leader who will help change the losing culture -- yes, even as a rookie.

Free safety (Marcus Maye): The Jets drafted him in the second round, convinced he has the skill set to be a ball-hawking safety. It's been awhile since they had one of those. Maye made only five interceptions in four college seasons, a bit concerning. He's coming off a fractured arm, which limited him in the offseason.


Kicker (Chandler Catanzaro): Can Catanzaro rediscover his mojo after an awful season in which he made only 75 percent of his field goal tries? Another question: Can his mojo survive in the cold? Catanzaro, who kicked in Arizona for three years, has attempted only three field goals with the temperature below 41 degrees. He made two.

Punter (Lachlan Edwards): After a disappointing rookie year, Edwards needs to show significant improvement -- or else the Jets will be looking for a new punter.

Long-snapper (Tanner Purdum): He's Mr. Consistency and the longest-tenured Jet.