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Over the last few weeks, we've been breaking down each position in terms of which players are fighting for those final roster spots. Who is in danger of being cut? Who has a chance to earn themselves a bigger role? We continue today with a look at the edge defenders.
Probable roster locks
This position, perhaps more than any, is wide open right now. It's tempting to say that there are no locks, but Jordan Jenkins at least seems to be secure in his spot. However, even if Jenkins can earn one of the two starting roles as expected, the other starting role is still wide open.
The incumbent starter is Josh Martin after he wrestled the role away from Kony Ealy as he faded down the stretch. Martin can probably also consider his roster spot as safe due to his special teams prowess.
However, his spot in the rotation is anything but safe and if someone steps up as the Jets are hoping, then he might find himself back in a special teams-only role.
In the competition
This time last year, former third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin was the projected starter only to miss the entire season with a back injury. However, the Jets don't seem to have adequately replaced him, so he will get a shot at earning that spot back.
Dylan Donahue had an early season rotational role as a pass rush specialist but didn't get many chances to flash before he too was sidelined by an injury. Donahue's chances weren't helped by some off-field issues but hopefully he'll benefit from a Jets' support system that proved beneficial for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins last year.
You could make a case that David Bass was the Jets' most consistently productive edge defender last year. He had 3.5 sacks in 13 games and generated some good pressure off the edge, as well as making some plays against the run. However, the Jets signed him late in the offseason, perhaps indicating they didn't see retaining him as a major priority.
Obum Gwacham is more of an unknown quantity. He barely played last year having been poached from the Cardinals' practice squad in October but the Jets presumably like his upside. Gwacham is a good athlete who showed pass rushing potential with 2.5 sacks in nine games as a rookie three years ago but hasn't done much since.
There should be a good open competition on the edge this year, both in terms of who will start and who will get reps in a situational role. However, with so much unproven talent at such an important position the team is taking a bit of a leap of faith to hope that someone will step up.
Other potential contributors
There are several players on the team that are listed at other positions who could see snaps on the edge. Defensive linemen such as Leonard Williams, Nathan Shepherd and Henry Anderson can probably be expected to play all over the defensive line.
However, in terms of playing on the edge as a full-time role, that's something Courtney Upshaw and Frankie Luvu have done recently. The veteran Upshaw is probably too big to do that now, though, having reportedly bulked up to around 290-295 pounds for a role on the defensive line in Atlanta. He might be used there in run stopping situations though. The undrafted rookie Luvu, by contrast, is probably too small to play there at the pro level and will likely take most of his reps in a coverage or off-the-ball role. Brandon Copeland is another player who has played both as an inside linebacker and on the edge but again isn't much of a pass rushing specialist.
Ultimately, this is a position where the Jets might find potential contributors from outside the organization. That's what they did in 2014, signing Jason Babin just a few days before camp opened, and in 2011 when they claimed Aaron Maybin during preseason. The Jets will almost certainly be scanning the waiver wires for a situational rusher and maybe even a potential starter. Trading from a position of strength to acquire one is another possibility.
The fact that they didn't bring in any pass rushing specialists at all during the offseason is a good sign that the Jets are perhaps higher on this group than we realized. However, they claimed to be high on their edge rushers heading into the 2016 season too and the production from that group was disappointing.