Handicapping the New York Jets’ 53-man roster: defense/special teams

On Monday, we started to look (a bit early) at which New York Jets should make September’s 53-man roster. Today, we continue that venture with a focus on the defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen: Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Leger Douzable, Kenrick Ellis, IK Enemkpali (rookie)

The defensive line was clearly the 2013 Jets’ strongest unit, and that should be no different this year. The ’Sons of Anarchy are a given to make the roster, and Leger Douzable and Kenrick Ellis are valuable rotation players. IK Enemkpali, one of the Jets’ sixth-round picks this year, also should make the team. Built like a heavier Antwan Barnes, he might see time as a defensive end this year but projects to eventually make the switch to outside linebacker in New York’s 3-4 scheme. Quinton Coples was not switched from end to ’backer until after his rookie season, so maybe the team will wish to do the same with Enemkpali.

Outside linebackers: Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre

The Jets don’t need Enemkpali at OLB just yet, anyway. Pace returns to the team on a two-year deal to join Coples and Barnes. McIntyre and Bellore are old standbys on special teams. We hear their names a lot every preseason, and I feel confident sticking with them in 2014. Seventh-round draft pick Trevor Reilly and undrafted free agents Nick Dimarco and Steele Divitto will have to make their cases for deserving a roster spot over McIntyre; it’s too early to tell how that will go and how everyone will perform in camp.

Inside linebackers: David Harris, Demario Davis, Jeremiah George (rookie), Nick Bellore

The Jets do not have much depth at inside linebacker, so George, the fifth-rounder out of Iowa State, is practically guaranteed a roster spot barring some major injury or crisis. Bellore was third in the league in special teams tackles last year with 17, according to teamrankings.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York JetsCornerbacks: Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Dex McDougle (rookie), Ellis Lankster, Darrin Walls, Dimitri Patterson, Brandon Dixon (rookie)

Ah, we arrive at cornerback, a unit that has gone from one of the league’s best to one of its, to put it nicely, most inexperienced in a quick 24 months. It isn’t just about years in the league, either. It’s clear that Milliner, the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, struggled in his rookie campaign until December, and Wilson, while serviceable, has always been just a nickelback in the league. Dimitri Patterson and Johnny Patrick were the only veteran signings at the position the Jets made this offseason; Patterson gets a roster spot over Patrick for having more experience. Don’t expect him to play much, anyway, as the Jets ought to let draft picks McDougle and Dixon log as much time on the field as they can.

Safeties: Calvin Pryor (rookie), Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush

I don’t see a need for Dawan Landry on this team if Pryor plays strong safety, but Pryor’s position remains to be seen. Jarrett and Bush are both valuable special teams players, and neither should take the fall if Landry doesn’t defend his starting role in camp.

Special teams: Nick Folk, Ryan Quigley, Tanner Purdum

Folk and Purdum will have no problem keeping their roster spots as starting kicker and long snapper, respectively. Rookie punter Tom Hornsey had a tryout with the Jets during rookie minicamp, and I wanted to pencil him in here because new special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey might want some raw talent to work with somewhere on the roster (see my mock draft article for how partial I am to Hornsey). In the end, I think they will stick with the devil they know and keep Quigley.

 

A lot has been said this week – more said than done, perhaps – about the Jets’ quarterback competition. Or, not a competition, depending on who you ask. “Controversy?” “Situation?” Check in Sunday for a week-in-review of the latest happenings at minicamp.