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5 Offensive Position Battles for the New York Jets

(Image credit: Bill Kostroun / New York Post)

Written by: Nicholas Mullick

The 2021 NFL season is getting close and pre-season games will be starting. As Training Camp for the New York Jets is currently underway it is best to look at position battles for the team. This article will be focused on 5 offensive position battles to keep an eye on.

1. Backup QB - Josh Johnson vs James Morgan vs Mike White

Joe Flacco was a disaster as the backup quarterback for the New York Jets last offseason and it was no surprise that Joe Douglas did not re-sign Flacco to another contract. Now that Flacco is no longer on the team let's look at the current Jets backup quarterbacks.

Josh Johnson is back on an NFL roster. On August 4th, 2021 the Jets signed Josh Johnson to a one-year contract with the team. Josh Johnson has been known as one of the most notable journeyman quarterbacks in the NFL. He has played with a total of 16 different teams. Did you know that Josh Johnson is the only current quarterback that played in the NFL, AAF, XFL, and UFL? I like this signing as it gives a veteran presence in the locker room and Johnson can give useful advice to Zach Wilson. Plus Josh Johnson performed well in his last games with the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats. The question is can he continue his success from the XFL?

James Morgan was acquired by the New York Jets in the 4th round in the 2019 NFL Draft. Last season he was in a similar battle with Joe Flacco for the backup spot behind Sam Darnold. Joe Flacco easily won the backup spot due to his experience as a starter with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens and started multiple games for the Jets. Speaking of which, I have to ask this question to the Jets: Why would you spend a 4th round pick on a quarterback like James Morgan and never give him an opportunity when Joe Flacco was clearly struggling and playing hurt last season? Morgan was not even hurt last season. I would have given a chance to see if Morgan could be the guy and get a glimpse of what he could be, instead of wasting time giving snaps to a quarterback who clearly was not coming back next season. Morgan is going to have to learn a new system due to the coaching change and Morgan will get a proper opportunity to prove to the team that he is a dependable backup quarterback for the team.

Mike White is an interesting player that the Jets chose to bring back this season. During his first few seasons in the league, he was a part of the Dallas Cowboys. Mike White would later join the New York Jets practice squad during the 2019 season. During the 2020 NFL season, he was cut in the early 53 man roster but then he was on and off the practice squad for the New York Jets. Mike White has shown in film moments of brilliance with his throws. However, he lacks consistency and can easily crumble under pressure.

These next few weeks are going to be huge for James Morgan and Mike White if they want to keep their jobs. Especially as they have yet to take a regular-season snap. If they want to have an advantage over Josh Johnson then they will have to perform well in preseason and in camp.

2. Running Back - Michael Carter vs Tevin Coleman vs Ty Johnson vs La’Mical Perine

The running back position for the Jets last season during the end of the Adam Gase era was summarized in one word, disorganized. Gase was disorganized with his running backs in practice, game time, and even in public with the whole Le'Veon Bell Drama. With Robert Saleh as the new head coach, it is clear that he is a lot more organized with the running backs both in practice and handling them in the public eye. With Frank Gore no longer on the Jets roster, there is officially a starting position open. Let's look at the options to choose from for the starting running back job.

Michael Carter is a player taken in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He played for the University of North Carolina. He was a very interesting pick as many projected him to go in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft and this was viewed as a steal. So far Carter is living up to the hype as he impressed the coaches during camp and was even seen with the starters during practice. While Michael Carter is the favorite out of the bunch to be the Week 1 starter, it is best to wait until he performs in the first preseason game to fully give him the starting position. Remember former coaches were also super impressed with former Jets running back rookies like Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon. Those picks unfortunately didn't live up to the hype as they both struggled and mainly played on special teams. If Michael Carter performs as well as he did in camp then Jets GM Joe Douglas just hit a home run with this selection.

Tevin Coleman is the most experienced running back currently on the New York Jets roster as he is entering his 7th season. Coleman was a big part of the Atlanta Falcons offense during their Super Bowl run. He has good hands, runs smooth routes, can be a power runner, and is a decent blocker. While there are a lot of positives for Tevin Coleman, the biggest negative attributed to him is injuries. He keeps getting injured and has had only one season where he played all 16 games. Tevin Coleman’s biggest advantage between the other running backs is that he ran under Mike Lafleur's offense for two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Plus he even had a good relationship with Lafleur during his rookie season as Lafleur was the offensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. If Tevin Coleman stays healthy and continues to showcase that he still has plenty more football in him he should have a chance at the starting position.

Ty Johnson was a player that came out of nowhere for the Jets. He spent his first season with the Detroit Lions and was waived at the beginning of the 2020 season. The New York Jets decided to claim him via waivers and give him a shot. Johnson played better than a lot of people thought he would as a backup. He shined in multiple games against the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, and New England Patriots. While Johnson is not the best runner on the team, he contributes the most catching the football. He has good hands and is a smooth route runner. If Ty Johnson can improve running the football then he could take over as the starter.

La’Mical Perine was selected in the 4th round in the 2020 NFL draft by the New York Jets. Perine had a strange season with the Jets. When he was given the chance he would flash in certain plays showcasing his ability to make cuts, have good hands, and adjust his body when he was catching the football. He doesn't have the best awareness or athleticism when running the football but has the ability to be a power back. The one thing that I was annoyed with the Jets during last season was how they handled Perine. Remember what I said about Adam Gase being disorganized with his handling of the running backs. Out of the 11 games that Perine played he only had 1 game where he had over 10 carries. Adam Gase gave the chunk of the carries to other players who struggled like Frank Gore, Kallen Ballage, and even Josh Adams. Perine should be utilized properly under head coach Robert Saleh and if he can prove himself in training camp and in preseason games then he will have a chance to either become the starting running back or the third-down back.

3. Tight End - Daniel Brown vs Ryan Griffin vs Chris Herndon vs Tyler Kroft vs Kenny Yeboah

Let's be honest this position has been a yearly battle every training camp for the New York Jets. While repetitive, it has also been the most intriguing battle for the New York Jets every season as it has been the most open competition on the offense where any player can possibly win. Let's look at the current Candidates that are on the roster.

Daniel Brown has not been given a lot of mention of his involvement in this battle and has mainly been ruled out of the running for the tight end spot. I am not going to rule Daniel Brown completely out of the battle as Joe Douglas clearly sees something in Brown and he showed some flashes during his tenure with the Ravens, Bears, and Jets.

Ryan Griffin is a player that has exceeded expectations. When he was originally acquired after the Texans released him, a lot of fans projected him to be a camp tight end. He has proved fans wrong and was a standout during the 2019 season which resulted in the Jets resigning him. Ever since signing that contract he had a down 2020 season. Griffin produced more as a blocking tight end than as a receiving tight end which is not what the Jets were expecting when they re-signed him. If Griffin can exceed expectations again by bouncing back in camp and during preseason games then he will be in a good position to win the starting job. It is important to note that if they cut Griffin the Jets would save around 2 million dollars.

Chris Herndon was the definition of a disappointment last season. He was hyped up as a potential breakout player for not only the Jets but for the entire league. The only breakout he did was in breaking up game-winning opportunities with big drops, missed blocks, and fumbles. He even looked lost when running routes last season. If he struggles again during training camp and in preseason games it would not be a surprise if Joe Douglas cuts him. It is important to note that if they cut Herndon the Jets would save around 2 million dollars.

Tyler Kroft’s signing during the offseason for the Jets is one of the more underrated signings made by Joe Douglas. Kroft when healthy has had a big impact on any offense that he is involved in if it is blocking or catching the football. Keep in mind I said when healthy as the problem with Kroft has been with injuries as he has not played a full season since his rookie year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015.

Kenny Yeboah is an extremely underrated undrafted free agent that Joe Douglas picked up after the 2021 NFL Draft had concluded. So far the signing of Yeobah has worked out as he has been a notable name that has impressed the coaching staff during offseason workouts. If Yeboah can continue to stand out and play well during the preseason not only will he secure a roster spot but potentially become the starting Tight End for the Jets.

4. No. 3 Wide Receiver - Braxton Berrios vs Keelan Cole vs Denzel Mims vs Elijah Moore

The Jets during the offseason invested a lot of resources in this position during the offseason. It is clear that Jamison Crowder and Corey Davis are locked in to be the number 1 and number 2 receivers on the team. So there is going to be a tremendous battle between the New York Jets receiving core.

Braxton Berrios was a player that was heavily utilized during the Adam Gase Era both on special teams and on offense. He heavily impressed not only the coaching staff but the fans by making nice returns on special teams. Berrios is okay on offense and is decent as a receiver. Nothing with him on offense impressed me as much as his play on special teams. He is not a strong route runner, doesn’t have the best hands, and he sometimes lacks awareness when tracking the ball. Berrios is more useful on special teams than he would be on offense. But if he improves in camp and other receivers struggle then Berrios will have an opportunity to become the No. 3 wide receiver on the team.

Keelan Cole is an interesting signing made by Joe Douglas during the offseason. He signed a one-year contract worth 5.5 million dollars. It seems the Jacksonville Jaguars never had confidence in Keelen Cole, as in one game he was the best player, and in the next game, he was mainly on special teams. It made no sense as Cole is a smooth route runner, has great hands, and is a deep threat. What is extremely impressive is his level of awareness when tracking the football. Look at the game vs the New England Patriots Week 2 in the 2018 season. He made amazing catches that should have not been caught. If Cole can showcase these skills in camp and preseason, then he will be in good shape as the No. 3 wide receiver.

Denzel Mims was hyped up as a player to watch after he was selected by the New York Jets during the 2020 NFL Draft in the 2nd round. Mims did not live to the generated hype last season due to injuries and poor performances in games last season. Mims has not had a strong performance in training camp and was even seen working with the third-string receivers in practice. This is not a good sign but if Mims can stay healthy and have a better performance in preseason he may be given the No. 3 wide receiver position for the team.

Elijah Moore played very well during his time with Ole Miss showing how athletically gifted he was. Some projected Moore to be drafted in the second or third round of the draft. There were even rumblings of him potentially being taken in the 1st round of the Jets. For the Jets, he was too good to pass up as he was taken by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. Ever since he stepped on the practice field he has been a name that has impressed many. Which is a great step with his development. If he keeps this up he should be in good shape of winning the number three receiving spot for the New York Jets.

5. Right Offensive Guard - Dan Feeney vs Alex Lewis vs Conor McDermott vs Greg Van Roten

It has been years since the New York Jets had a solution for their offensive line troubles. Ever since Joe Douglas took over as the GM for the Jets he has done an excellent job fixing those problems. Last season he selected Mekhi Becton in the 2020 NFL draft and has been excellent as a blindside tackle. Connor McGovern is the best center the Jets have had since Nick Mangold. They traded up for Alijah Vera-Tucker in the 2021 NFL draft and if he adapts to the NFL level he should be another good offensive lineman. George Fant was solid as a right tackle but will have to watch out for Morgan Moses. There is a spot left that is a big question mark and that is at right guard. Let's look at some players currently on the team.

Dan Feeney during the offseason signed a 1 year 3.5 million dollar contract. When Dan Feeney signed with the New York Jets I was excited. This is easily the most underrated signing made by the Jets. Feeney was good for the Los Angeles Chargers and opened holes for Melvin Gordon, Austin Eckler, and Kalen Ballage. Even though Feeney was productive in run blocking he must clean up his pass protection techniques. He can be sloppy with his footwork and when shooting his hands. Feeney has a habit of lunging to make blocks when a defensive player blitzes. If Feeney can improve his pass protection skills and continue to showcase his run blocking skills he can possibly win the starting position.

Alex Lewis has had a strange career with the New York Jets. He was originally acquired via trade by the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 7th round draft pick during the 2019 season and was the only bright spot on a terrible offensive line. He was later rewarded with a 3-year contract with the New York Jets. The 2020 season was a bizarre season for Lewis as he was doing a solid job during the games he played in. Then Alex Lewis was benched by Adam Gase for an undisclosed reason. Gase stated in multiple conferences that it wasn't injury, covid protocol, or a disciplinary reason. Which makes zero sense as he was performing well for the team at the time, so it has to be a disciplinary reason. As a result of this bizarre season, Lewis had agreed to take a pay cut to stay with the team. He is definitely on the roster bubble but he is a decent pass protector and opening holes for the offensive line. Lewis will need to play with consistency in the upcoming preseason games to win the battle for the starting spot.

Conor McDermott is a player to watch in minicamp as it is clear that Joe Douglas sees something in Conor McDermott. Especially because in the middle of the season, he chose to re-sign him to another 1-year extension. Joe Douglas has even been outspoken about McDermott in some press conferences. McDermott has done a decent job as a rotational blocker for the Jets. A huge concern with him is that he is not consistent. He shows moments of brilliance in the offensive line making key blocks when protecting the quarterback. But he also shows moments where he is lacking awareness and misses blocks. He is more of a pass blocker than a run blocker. If he improves his skills, other players struggle, and impress the coaches then he has a shot of possibly winning the starting position on the offensive line.

Greg Van Roten was acquired via 2020 free agency as he signed a three-year contract after a successful few seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He was deemed as one of the big signings to help fix the offensive line issues for the team. Well, Van Roten had an up and down season last year with the Jets. There were some plays where he shined and other plays where he struggled. Plus his season ended early due to injuries. He needs to be a little more consistent when he is playing in upcoming preseason games. Remember there also is the possibility that the Jets could move on from Van Roten if he struggles during the preseason. If he was released it would clear 3.5 million dollars in salary cap.


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