Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Over the next few weeks, we're going to break 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 wide receiver position.
Probable Roster Locks
An oft-quoted statistic over the past few weeks is that the Jets are the only team in the NFL who have had four players have more than 800 receiving yards in a season. Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse achieved this last season and Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor did it in 2016.
Enunwa and Pryor are both coming off injuries, so perhaps they can't be fully counted on and there was also some uncertainty over Anderson's status following some off-field issues. However, if all four are healthy, each is considered likely to be in the line-up. However, if some less-heralded receivers impress at camp, then perhaps the Jets could look to trade someone.
In the competition
The hot hand at the moment seems to be Chad Hansen. Last year's fourth-round pick showed some potential at the end of last year and has been turning heads at practice over the spring. Despite being selected one round ahead of Hansen, ArDarius Stewart's spot is somewhat less secure. The former Alabama star is looking to bounce back after struggling to make an impact last year.
The future of some of these players might come down to how many receivers the team opts to retain on their roster. The team could carry as few as five, but if there are young players who are to be stashed with an eye on the future or players that will also make valuable special teams contributions then there's a good chance they'll carry six or maybe even seven. If that was the case, you'd expect some of the back-ups to spend much of the year on the inactive list though.
The main candidates for a special teams role are Lucky Whitehead and Andre Roberts. Whitehead began preseason as the Jets' primary return man before getting hurt. The experienced Roberts used to be a productive receiver but he's been almost exclusively just a return man in recent years. Both are equally competent on punts and kickoffs. For either of these to make the team, they'd have to beat out rookie running back Trenton Cannon, but he's less experienced in terms of handling punts.
You never know when one of the bottom-end-of-the-roster players might emerge as a candidate to contribute during the season. In fact, that's exactly what happened with Anderson a few years ago when he started off camp in the same situation. So, who could make a similar impression this year?
There's a good mix of players in this group, including two former Jets draft picks, a veteran free agent signing and an undrafted rookie. Any of these would arguably have been a reasonable candidate to make last year's team, but the fact nobody is giving any of them much of a chance speaks to the team's vastly improved pass-catching depth.
Devin Smith and Charone Peake are both coming back from injuries. Smith is hoping to resurrect his career after suffering two ACL tears over the past few seasons. The former second-round pick had been a disappointment in his rookie year before his first injury but had been regarded as a potential deep threat specialist when drafted. Peake, a 2016 7th-round pick who caught 19 passes in his rookie season, started last season as the number four receiver according to Todd Bowles, but played just 28 snaps in the first few games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
Free agent signing Charles Johnson is also coming off an injury. The former Minnesota Viking - who was one of Teddy Bridgewater's favorite targets in 2014 and 2015 - missed the 2017 season with a knee injury after moving to Carolina. The 29-year old has 60 career catches, including 31 in 2014, which was Bridgewater's rookie year.
Perhaps the two biggest longshots right now are Tre McBride and Jonah Trinnaman. McBride was a former seventh-round pick but has just 10 career catches. He was signed to a futures deal having spent time on the Jets practice squad. Trinnaman, a recent waiver claim, is an undrafted rookie with terrific measurables, but is probably too raw to be anything other than a longer-term practice squad project.