New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

Who’s next? The New York Jets’ potential cap cuts

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

Henry Anderson was the first player let go in the New York Jets’ 2021 roster purge. Who might be next as free agency looms?

When the latest offering a playoff drought reaching double figures is a two-win campaign, changes are inevitable. The New York Jets officially got those changes, at least those made in 2021, underway last week with the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. This process more or less began with an in-season fire sale that saw the New York careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and Steve McLendon come to an end, but the future planning began in earnest with Anderson’s departure.

After a career-best seven sacks in 2018, his debut New York season after a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, Anderson failed to duplicate those numbers over two additional seasons. The $8.2 million added to the Jets’ cap space made him an essential candidate to open their transactions. New York now has over $77 million in cap space to work with, still second-best in the NFL behind Jacksonville. Even so, when you’re coming off a two-win season in a perpetual rebuild one can use all the resources they can get to crawl their way out…especially when you’re a team cursued with as many holes as the Jets. Thus, Anderson might not be the only to see his New York career cut short.

As the NFL’s pre-free agency period winds down, a tumultuous week potentially awaits with teams preparing to adjust their roster to drastically reduced salary cap. Who be next on the Jets’ free agency block? ESM investigates…

(all figures via Over the Cap)

WR Jamison Crowder 

(Cap Savings: $10.375 million; Dead Money: $1 million)

Save for the uncertainty around the quarterback situation, what the Jets do with Crowder will be one of their most intriguing sags of the offseason. Crowder has established himself as one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL during his time in New York. He has been the Jets most potent offensive weapon by far over the last two seasons with 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which went for touchdowns. Those numbers are even handicapped by the fact Crowder was listed as a starter in only 19 games, missing four entirely due to injury.

Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon over the last two seasons…but does that say more about the state of the New York offense than it does about Crowder? No matter who the quarterback is next season, he’s going to need weapons. Should the Jets start completely fresh or perhaps take care of a need by keeping Crowder? With the same saving stipulations involved, another avenue for Crowder could be a trade, as potential dealing partners (Houston/Seattle, anyone?) could use a veteran producer for their weaponry.

T George Fant

(Cap Savings: $7.85 million; Dead Money: $2 million) 

General manager Joe Douglas has made efforts to revamp the Jets’ blocking, an admirable cause after the previous regime took a neglectful approach that has proven costly. But another renovation could well underway, as Douglas’ first full-time free agency haul mostly underwhelmed, and that included the former Seahawk Fant.

Last season probably showed that Fant’s long-term future is probably better suited for the role of a reliable backup. While it’s great to have depth, as well as Fant’s veteran leadership, is this worth resisting the additional funds that can be used to plug holes on the offensive line and beyond?

G Alex Lewis

(Cap Savings: $5.1 million; Dead Money: $1.6 million)

Lewis is a bit symbolic of Douglas’ admirable yet fruitless efforts to improve the blocking. When he took the general manager position in the latter stages of the 2019 offseason, one of his first moves was a trading a late pick to Baltimore to obtain Lewis, who inked a three-year last March after taking on a larger role in the offense in the Kelechi Osemele aftermath.

But Lewis failed to build on his debut season and spent the latter portions of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. The Jets have appeared committed to Lewis as a bit of a blocking project of sorts, but his tantalizing cap savings make him a prime option for release.

G Greg Van Roten

(Cap Savings: $3.4 million; Dead Money: $250,000)

Another yield from the 2020 free agency haul, the Long Island native Van Roten was at least passable, earning a decent pass blocking grade (71.5) on Pro Football Focus and partaking in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games. It’s possible he could survive another season of the Jets’ rebuild, if only to erase a box on the offseason checklist. There’s also no dead money left on his deal if the Jets were to cut him loose this time next year.

TE Ryan Griffin

(Cap Savings: $1.8 million; Dead Money: $1.4 million)

Time will tell how the Jets’ tight end situation works out, but the top two options, Griffin and Chris Herndon (over $2 million in savings) would provide extra offseason funds. With Herndon starting to show flashes of reverting to his rookie form in the late stages of the last season, not to mention his youth and and potential upside, the Jets would probably be more likely to end the Griffin experiment after he struggled to stay on the field after inking a three-year extension in 2019.

DE Foley Fatukasi

(Cap Savings: $2.1 million; Dead Money: $43,564) 

The Jets’ front four, which will take on greater importance in Robert Saleh’s new systems, is an area that, surprisingly, needs little refurbishment. Keeping Fatukasi, who rose to the occasion when granted an extended opportunity after injuries and moves, would be a nice show of faith to a day three draft pick that has made a home for himself in the New York area in more ways than one. Fatukasi was born in Far Rockaway and his brother each star on Rutgers’ football team in Piscataway. After the eldest Fatukasi posted career-best numbers with the Jets, no use in breaking this family reunion.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Offensive line

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

No matter who plays quarterback for the New York Jets in 2021, they’re going to need someone blocking for them.

The Position: Offensive Line
On the Roster: Greg Van Roten, Conor McDermott, Connor McGovern, Jimmy Murray, Mekhi Becton, Cameron Clark, Chuma Edoga, George Fant, Alex Lewis
Free Agents: Pat Elflein, Josh Andrews
Reserve/Future: N/A

If Joe Douglas made one thing clear upon taking the New York Jets’ general manager spot, it was that he was going to work on an offensive line that Mike Maccagnan mostly neglected.

Save for choosing Chuma Edoga with what became the final day two pick of his tenure, Maccagan avoided building the line with his early selections. Prior to Maccagan using one of his final picks on Chuma Edoga in 2019’s third round, Brian Winters was the last blocker chosen within the draft’s first three sessions in 2013. The last premiere choices were the legendary D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Nick Mangold haul during the 2006 selections.

Once Douglas got to work in the late stages of summer 2019, he quickly let everyone know that the Jets were under management by getting to work on the line. He sent a late draft pick to Baltimore to bring in Alex Lewis and convinced Carolina mainstay Ryan Kalil to delay his retirement. While the results have been mixed…the Kalil experiment blew up and Lewis has been in and out of the starting lineup…Douglas had a plan to build the offense up.

He kept things up last season, as Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant joined the team through free agency. During his first draft, Douglas bypassed name-brand receivers like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson to take Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. The veterans struggled, but Douglas appears to have chosen a keeper in Becton, who served as a rare silver lining during his debut campaign. Douglas didn’t stop there, taking Charlotte football’s longest-tenured player Cameron Clarke with the last of three fourth-round picks.

Becton appears to be a long-term asset in New York, but many of the deals have opt-outs after a single year. In fact, the only free agent in the entire 2020 free agency class with a dedication beyond last season is Connor McGovern. Some cap saving moves…the release of George Fant would save the team over $5 million, for example…may lead the Jets to a complete retooling of their blocking for the second straight season…with the exception of Becton at the blind side, of course.

Questions plague the Jets’ quarterback situation, as many question whether Sam Darnold will get a fourth year in the franchise thrower role. But no matter who’s throwing, the quarterback’s endeavors will be meaningless if he has no protection. There’s a long way to go to finish building the wall.

Free Agents-to-be 

G Josh Andrews

Andrews was a career-long depth man who earned a Super Bowl ring with Douglas while serving on Philadelphia’s practice squad. He was initially part of the final training camp cuts, but he returned to partake in all but one game. He even started four, including the final three when Van Roten went down, the first starts of his career.

G Pat Elflein 

Bid farewell from Minnesota in November, Elflein was a bit of a peace offering for Adam Gase when the departed head coach Adam Gase butted heads. Since Lewis has been a rare consistent prescience in the Jets’ blocking corps, it’s likely that Elflein will likely ship off in search of new opportunities.

Will They Draft?

It’s a very strong possibility. Douglas knows the importance of picking a lineman and likely won’t hesitate to use an early pick to find either an immediate contributor or a depth option that could raise the heat on any returnees. If the Jets resolve their quarterback situation prior to the draft, many have pegged Oregon standout Penei Sewell to at No. 2. Sewell skipped the entire 2020 campaign but his breakthrough sophomore showing a season prior will not be soon forgotten. But with Sewell lining in the same blindspot as Becton, the Jets will likely seek help on the right side. Thus, choosing Texas’ Sam Cosmi or the versatile Rashawn Slater of Northwestern with the Seattle pick at No. 23 or their regularly scheduled second-round choice at No. 34 seems a lot more realistic.

Veteran Possibilities

G Joe Thuney, New England

Lewis has been serviceable at left guard, but if Thuney presents himself, the Jets would likely be in the running. The Jets targeted Thuney during the last free agency period, but the Patriots put the franchise tag on him. It’s likely that Thuney is going to look for some long-term stability this time around, and the Jets certainly have the cap space to afford such a premier blocking talent.

G Brandon Scherff, Washington

Over the past few tumultuous seasons of Washington football, Scherff has been a rare consistent silver lining…when he plays, that is. The four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t played a full season since his sophomore season back in 2016 but has been a dominant prescience in the nation’s capital. Bringing him in would be the true definition of a high-risk/high-reward situation.

T Daryl Williams, Buffalo

Signed to a relatively cheap one-year deal as a depth option, Williams came up big for the Bills when injuries hit their blocking corps, namely Cody Ford. He partook in over 95 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps and became a generally reliable piece alongside fellow free agent Jon Feliciano on the right side. A former All-Pro, Williams will likely seek a bigger contract this time around, but he can be looked upon as not only a solid contributor but as a provider of veteran guidance the Jets desperately need.

Outlook

A poor offensive line can sink even the most potent of offenses. Look no further than what happened to the Kansas City Chiefs during Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities. With Eric Fisher out, Patrick Mahomes was left running for his life constantly thanks to a relentless Tampa Bay rush ordered by Todd Bowles. The onslaught undoubtedly played a factor in the Chiefs’ eventual 31-9 defeat. New York, of course, is miles further from returning to the Super Bowl, so far away that the journey is probably going to take several years. The process should with building up the blocking. Draft Becton was a good start, and it certainly seems like the Louisville product is here to stay. But there’s a long, long way to go when it comes to protecting the quarterback on a reliable basis. Not matter who’s under center, the Jets need to bolster the wall in front of him. Douglas has gotten off to a good start in filling this dire need. Further change is undoubtedly coming, but whether it’s through the draft or free agency remains to be seen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets waive veteran K Sam Ficken prior to finale

The well-traveled Ficken got off to a hot start in 2020, but his New York Jets career appears to be over after two seasons.

The New York Jets have announced several roster moves leading into their season finale against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their most consequential moves may be the release of kicker Sam Ficken and the activation of starting blocker Greg Van Roten off of injured reserve.

Ficken, 28, sees his Jets career end after two seasons, continuing the Jason Myers saga on a sour note. He began the year on a strong note, converting his first nine field goal attempts and all six of his extra point opportunities through Week 6 action. A groin injury sidelined him for the next three games before he briefly returned for the Week 11 tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers, missing two extra points in the 34-28 defeat. In yet another visit to Los Angeles, this one coming against the Rams, Ficken score 11 of the Jets’ 23 points in their first win of the season, but he missed two, an extra point and field goal each, in last week’s victory over Cleveland at home.

The Jets (2-13) will use Chase McLaughlin as their kicker in New England. McLaughlin entered the league in 2019 and has spent time with eight different organizations in some capacity. This season, he was originally cut by Indianapolis after training camp before joining Minnesota’s practice squad. He later served as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ kicker for three weeks, converting all four field goal attempts, before the Jets picked him up in December. McLaughlin will become the fourth different kicker to appear in a regular season game for the Jets since the Pro Bowler Myers departed for Seattle after the 2018 campaign.

Van Roten partook in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games before leaving their Week 13 contest against Las Vegas with a toe injury. Ironically, the 30-year-old Van Roten was also paced in IR with a toe injury last season during his final year with the Carolina Panthers. Signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, Van Roten has been one of the Jets’ more consistent offensive line.

In addition to Van Roten and McLaughlin, a quartet of other Jets will make their debut on the active roster this week. Linebackers Noah Dawkins and Brady Sheldon were promoted from the practice squad, while another linebacker, Sharif Finch, and a defensive lineman, Tanzel Smart, were picked up and moved to the 53-man ledger.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Jon Gruden calls New York Jets “a handful” as matchup looms

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Head coach Jon Gruden is refusing to take the winless New York Jets lightly, as his reeling Las Vegas Raiders are set to visit on Sunday.

The New York Jets and the Las Vegas Raiders have played some classics dating back to their American Football League days. Sunday’s latest chapter probably won’t be one of the cross-country rivalry’s finest.

Visiting under their Las Vegas moniker for the first time, the Raiders are set to battle the Jets in Week 13 of NFL action (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Jets (0-11) figure to be little more than a minor inconvenience as the Raiders (6-5) remain on the cusp of the AFC playoff picture. But Vegas will be forced to rebuild their playoff case as they enter December reeling from an embarrassing 43-6 defeat in Atlanta last weekend.

The brutal experience against the Falcons has caused Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to reiterate that his growing squad can’t take anyone lightly…even the winless Jets.

“If you watch the Jets play (on Sunday), they’re a handful. They are going to be hard to move the ball on,” Gruden said after the Atlanta debacle, per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press. “This will be a fistfight, no doubt about it. I got a lot of respect for the way the Jets are competing.”

The Jets fell by a 20-3 final to Miami on Sunday, but kept pace with a respectable defensive performance that saw them force two turnovers and four sacks. Three of the Jets’ last five losses have come by one possession.

Gruden has had his share of run-ins with the Jets, as Sunday will mark his seventh time facing Gang Green. He owns a 3-3 record in the set, including a 38-24 win during the 2001-02 AFC Wild Card playoffs, a victory that would become the last of his original Raiders tenure.

Perhaps the most impactful defeat in that ledger came last season. In their Oakland swan song, Gruden’s Raiders were in the midst of a surprising playoff push at 6-4 when they came to East Rutherford to battle the 3-7 Jets. But the team was forced to wake from their postseason dreams in the cruelest of fashions: through a 34-3 shellacking at the hands of their hosts. Sam Darnold tallied 315 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense held Oakland to 10 first downs. It more or less sent the Raiders into a tailspin, as they lost four of their final five games to miss out on the final AFC wild card by two games. To date, it’s the last time the Jets have scored at least 30 points in a game.

Nov 24, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Asked in the immediate aftermath about the positives gained in that visit to East Rutherford, Gruden could only smirk and declare “the sun came up today”.

The modern Raiders now have a sense of deja vu, having started last season 6-4 as well before a blowout loss on the road brought them back to earth. Gruden wasn’t interested in comparing this year’s team to last in any way, shape, or form going into their Atlanta visit.

“Everything is different,” Gruden said, per Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Every day-to-day thing we do is different: The way we travel, the way we eat, the way we meet, the way we greet each other.”

So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case from an outsider’s point of view. The Jets, despite their dire predicament, have made it clear that they have no interest in a quest for a goose egg in the win column that would undoubtedly secure them the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. They’ll be looking for some offensive traction as they go into their final five games to avoid complete infamy.

“Our defense is playing well enough for us to win, so we’ve got to get it together as an offense score some points,” guard Greg Van Roten said, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “Our offense just needs to pick it up. We’ve got to get in the red zone. We’ve got to be more efficient on third downs. We have to score touchdowns.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Greg Van Roten isn’t buying into talks of a tank

New York Jets

As New York Jets fans clamor to clinch positioning for 2021’s top overall pick, Greg Van Roten made it clear that the team wants to win.

New York Jets fans often complain about “having” to watch their team play, but they can opt-out at any time. Greg Van Roten, however, has literally seen everything.

The offensive lineman, working his way through his first season as a Jet, has partaken in every single offensive snap the Jets have had over their first ten games. Van Roten has become a welcome staple of relative consistency on a unit that has seen a drastic amount of in-season turnover through injuries and transactions. He’s provided some of the few silver linings in New York football this season, such as the top guard ranking from Pro Football Focus during Week 5 action.

It hasn’t been enough, however, to keep the Jets away from pro football infamy. New York (0-10) is the only winless team left in the NFL and many believe they’re destined to join the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns in the unholy brotherhood of carrying an 0-16 record. They’re also the only team mathematically eliminated from the NFL postseason after 11 weeks of play.

The light at the end of the tunnel in a winless scenario won’t be reached until spring, as imperfection would undoubtedly net the Jets the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. With five of the Jets’ final six opponents either holding or tied for a current playoff spot, many Jets fans are willing to bite the bullet and take the goose egg in the win column if it means hearing Roger Goodell inform the NFL world that the team will be on the clock first when the selection meetings commence.

Van Roten isn’t buying into that idea for a second.

“Why would you want to be in that group?” Van Roten asked rhetorically in his Wednesday post-practice availability, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “The hunger is there, especially if you’re older. I don’t want to be a part of one season that is historically bad. We have six games left and we will try to win as many as we can.”

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he continued. “If we lose every game it’s possible that I’m not here next year. Nothing in this league is guaranteed. Not the next game, the next year, or the next play. In this league, you can’t concern yourself with the long term.”

The 30-year-old signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract after spending the prior three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, but the Jets can save over $3 million in cap space if they release him prior to June 1 after this season.

Van Roten isn’t the first Jet to speak out against Jets fans’ apparent wishes of 0-16. Veteran rusher and fellow first-year Jet Frank Gore issued similar sentiments after the Jets’ latest loss, a 34-28 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend. The blocker referenced Gore’s statements and said that they are by no means the only ones in the locker room to believe it.

Furthermore, Van Roten doesn’t want the Jets to stop at one win. If and when that victory comes, he believes the Jets can conjure up more. 

“When we win, it will be a relief for sure,” he said, per Bell. “You never expect to lose this many in a row in this league. When we finally win, we want to get another and another.”

The Jets’ quest for a win continues on Sunday, as the Jets battle the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: New York Jets release Brian Winters Saving Cap Space

New York Jets, Brian Winters

Brian Winters has been a mainstay of the New York Jets’ offensive line for the past 7 years. From a third round pick out of Kent State in 2013, to being one of the most efficient lineman the Jets have had in the last few years, Winters has grown while in Green and White. Now, it unfortunately looks like his time donning the green and white colors has come to an end.

Why did the New York Jets release Winters?

Recently, I wrote a piece highlighting how Winters’ veteran presence could make him integral to the offensive line next season, now the Jets will continue to move forward with the offensive line overhaul. After signing Greg Van Roten in the offseason to play guard, and drafting Cameron Clark, it became apparent Winters was not in the long term plans. My initial thought process was he’d be a transitional piece for this season to allow the line to gel quicker, but now the Jets will count on offensive line coach, Frank Pollack to get the unit together in time to play Buffalo week one.

As for Winters, he will likely find a home elsewhere. He’s only 29 and despite battling injuries, he’s been somewhat efficient. As a fan, despite the $7 million freed up with his release, my heart breaks for Winters. He’s given his blood, sweat and tears to this organization. He’s grown from a rookie to a father with this team and it’s sad to see him go. With that said, he’s also a competitor and with so much football left in him I don’t think he would want to sit behind a new line and be slowly phased out. This gives him a chance to compete for a role elsewhere and hopefully find a new home. So, in the end, it’s a win-win for both sides.

Now, the Jets just built themselves an intriguing position battle. The team must figure out if Greg Van Roten, the former panthers mainstay, can hold the starting job, or if the feisty rookie, Cameron Clark can steal it away. 

New York Jets: Brian Winters could be an integral piece to a successful offense

New York Jets, Brian Winters

Brian Winters has been a veteran piece for the New York Jets for the longest time. This offseason has fogged up the future of Winters. With new additions across the board, the offensive line has undergone an extensive overhaul. As the offseason programs and now the preseason get hindered by COVID-19, continuity has become all the more imperative to success. With that said, all of a sudden, Brian Winters has just received a significant bump in his stock.

The Long Tenured Jet Is Efficient

Winters hasn’t been the most successful guard, but he’s been efficient at times. Despite battling injuries last season, he finished with a PFF rating of 62.4. That’s pretty underwhelming on the surface, but if you take a look back at his production from 2018, he was near the top half of offensive lineman in a few categories.

He allowed five sacks, which wasn’t great but could’ve been much worse over a 16 game span. He only had six penalties, which isn’t very bad. The very important stat, 1,001 snaps played, which was 17th best in all of football for linemen. Winters wasn’t spectacular. Nor has he ever been, but he’s efficient.

Why His Role Could Expand

With the lack of a preseason, Winters could make the roster and earn meaningful reps after all. Initially, it seemed as though Winters could be a cut candidate in the preseason. Now, with the lack of preseason, that eliminates the opportunity for the new pieces to gel in-game on the offensive line. With the lack of time to build chemistry, this could give Winters a leg up over his competitions, Greg Van Roten and Cameron Clark. Ultimately, Winters can provide a veteran leadership role for the rookies and new additions. As well as bring continuity on the overhauled line with the changing circumstances of the season. 

The New York Jets could pursue Pro Bowl offensive guard Larry Warford

New York Jets, Larry Warford

You probably read that headline and thought, “Sheesh, how many more offensive linemen can this team sign?”. Quite frankly, Joe Douglas has spent loads of resources between draft picks and money towards fixing the offensive line. Although he’s done a great job, the New York Jets could add another offensive lineman who would turn the line into an above-average line. That lineman is the newly released 3-time pro bowler, Larry Warford.

Who is Larry Warford?

Larry Warford was a third-round pick by the New Orleans Saints during the 2013 draft. At 28 years old, Warford has started on the Saints offensive line since his inception into the NFL. He’s only missed a handful of games in that time, and he’s received three Pro Bowl nods in the last three years. Warford is a durable and talented guard. Had he hit the market at the start of free agency, he’d have been a hot commodity. Now, with the addition of Saints’ first-rounder Cesar Ruiz to pair with their other young offensive linemen, the Saints felt that Warford and his $12.9 million dollar cap hit (2nd highest next to Drew Brees) were not worth it anymore. Warford now faces a likely extensive market.

The New York Jets Should Target Him

As I previously mentioned, although the Jets overhauled their offensive line, you never say no to a Pro Bowler. The tackles and center position may be solidified, and the Jets may have established competition at guard, but Warford is an instant game-changer. His durability and leadership would make him an asset. If you release Brian Winters and allow Alex Lewis, Cameron Clark, and Greg Van Roten to compete for the other guard spot, then Warford can be a starter on the line.

The fact is, the Jets need to continue to improve and establish completion at a position that is still not all the way improved. Adding a Pro Bowler in his prime would take the Jets’ offensive line to another level.

Report: New York Jets sign guard Greg Van Roten

New York Jets, Greg Van Roten

The New York Jets have added another offensive lineman. Greg Van Roten was one of the top offensive lineman available, and the long islander is now a Jet.

What Does Van Roten Bring?

Greg Van Roten is a 30-year-old guard who will now likely become the Jets’ newest starter. He can also swing out and play tackle if need be, which provides more flexibility on the line. Van Roten will be receiving a three year deal with money not yet known.

Van Roten is a superb run blocker and pass protector. He’s only allowed three sacks and 5 QB hits in the past two years. He’s also been flagged once in 5 years. Van Roten has taken over as a starter in Carolina and not looked back. Van Roten immediately establishes the interior with Alex Lewis and Connor McGovern and makes it a much-improved one.

The Jets would still have room to grab an interior lineman on day 2 or 3, but it is no longer a necessity. Presumably, the Jets will aim to grab a rookie to compete with Lewis at the guard spot, along with the tackle they’ll likely grab at 11.

The Jets offensive line has been massively upgraded by Douglas in free agency, and adding a long time Jet fan and solid offensive lineman in Van Roten has furthered that.

What’s Next?

Now with all the offensive line additions, this makes longtime Jet Brian Winters expendable. Winters will likely be cut now and could find a market elsewhere.

The Jets now legitimately turn their attention to other areas. They could add a tackle, but they may focus on that more in the draft with pick 11. As for now, the Jets will likely continue to wait out the decision from Robby Anderson. If he doesn’t return, expect the Jets to move quickly to fill the speed receiver slot he will leave.

The Jets will also have to aim towards adding another outside corner. Prince Amukamara has been linked to the Jets a lot and could be a good fit to pair with a pick, Bless Austin and Brian Poole. The Jets also need to target an edge rusher or two. Lastly, the Jets should target a backup QB to upgrade over Siemian in case Darnold gets hurt or mono again. Douglas achieved his first goal and did a damn good job of it with the offensive line.