With the Jets opening the season in just a few weeks, we will break down the depth charts of each position in order to look at how the Jets stack up as they prepare for the 2016 NFL season. See the previous report on wide receivers.
Next up: Safeties
Starters: Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist
Backups / Special Teamers*: Rontez Miles*, Ronald Martin, Doug Middleton, Dion Bailey
Overall Analysis: Pryor is in his third year and is coming into his own. After Rex Ryan miscast Pryor in 2014, new coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan brought in the veteran Gilchrist to stabilize the coverage safety role in the secondary and allow Pryor to be used in his more comfortable (and harder hitting role) as a box safety. With a better overall unit and the puzzle pieces in the right places, Pryor responded with an impressive 69 tackles, six passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble despite three missed games with a high ankle sprain. This year, Pryor is setting his sights higher and has lofty expectations. Good to hear giving the company he keeps in the secondary.
While Gilchrist might have flown under the radar before his arrival in Florham Park, his 82 combined tackles and three interceptions were a key element in stabilizing a secondary which had struggled the two preceding years. Another year together for Gilchrist and Pryor will be good, but the team will be relied on more now that Antonio Cromartie is no longer part of the equation at cornerback. Look for Gilchrist to take on more work in coverage, even fading back to Revis's side with more regularity.
Backup Plan: While the Jets have some solid starters and have some fair depth and special teams options, the worry is that the backups still are young and don't have a high number of NFL games played between them. This group could really go any number of ways and predicting how the final roster plays out will be difficult, but there are some clues.
Miles, who has bounced on and off the Jets roster since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2013, seems the most likely player out of this group to shine on special teams. Bailey played commendably in the games which Pryor missed but this summer has needed to work to stay healthy and on the practice field. Could Bailey be the fourth man of this group?
Name to Watch: Middleton seems to have gotten some positive reviews so far in training camp, especially after his late interception in the first preseason game. While Middleton cracking the roster over Miles, Bailey or Martin seems unlikely, Middleton seems like a great candidate for this year's practice squad unless he has some killer games in the next three weeks.