But the front office also worked hard to build up the back half of roster through smart free agency retentions, under the radar trades -- and of course team competition.
With OTAs and minicamps in the books and training camp little more than a month away, here's four players to watch in July and August at Jets Training Camp in Florham Park who might to prove to have bigger roles than many might first thought.
Rontez Miles (Safety)
It is impossible NOT to root for Rontez Miles. He has had a long and winding path to the NFL, but thanks to his determination, hope and physicality, he's a player that coaches gravitate towards. Miles is neither huge nor a speed demon, but he is a relentless worker with quick twitch agility and explosion that he knows how to transfer into action on the football field.
After a collision with teammate Marcus Williams in practice, Miles had a serious medical condition that ended his season the week he was about to be called up to the active roster called compartment syndrome. Only thanks to head trainer John Mellody's knowledge and decisive action did Miles avoid potential amputation. Now back out on the field it sounds as if Miles has not lost a step and stood out during the spring. Miles might be back on the practice squad this year, but we suspect he could get a better shot as a special teamer and package defensive player this season.
Chris Owusu (Wide Receiver)
After playing for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and leading the Cardinal in receiving during Andrew Luck's epic 2010 season, Owusu is now three years into his NFL career and already played for four teams. Regardless of the crooked path to New York, Owusu is a physical freak with elite agility, explosion and speed; he ran the second fastest time (4.36) in the 40 yard dash at the 2012 NFL Combine. Check his Eric Weddle-level hops!
Ah, but why did he go undrafted? Unfortunately for Owusu, his history of concussions in college concerned teams. Had he been drafted 2-3 years prior Owusu probably would have been a midround pick. Owusu had a strong finish last season with the Jets. First, with this wild catch against the Vikings and then in the season finale versus the Dolphins. Owusu accounted for 59 yards on the Jets first scoring drive with a touchdown to boot. Later, Owusu had a 87 yard kick return to start the second half. While Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have no history with Owusu, he's demonstrated enough to be a viable special teams ace and potential fill in for the Jets at the fifth receiver spot.
Wes Saxton (Tight End)
NFL Media had a great quip about his speed.
Saxton profiles as a pass catcing "move" style tight end with good speed and explosion to attack the seam of opposing defenses. In the lead up to the draft the Jets were similarly interested in TE MyCole Pruitt, a player taken by the Vikings one pick after the Jets original fifth round pick (given to the Bears for Brandon Marshall) and nine picks before their makeup pick from from the Texans (because of the Jaelen Strong trade-back).
So in retrospect, in a year the Jets are doing their best to build up their competition and backups on offense, it should be no surprise that the Jets went hard for the premier UDFA at the position in Saxton after missing on a similarly profiled athletic gem like Pruitt. While Saxton has spent some spring practices sidelined due to injury, he could get a good shot to make the team as a special teamer this summer in training camp against veterans Kellen Davis and blocking tight end Steven Maneri.
With time, Saxton has speed and the receiving skills that could make him a viable NFL tight end in an offense like Chan Gailey's. But like many of the Jets young additions at the position in the past 1o years, his future will be at the mercy of his ability to compete as a run blocker. Saxton will likely need a year to develop; a full offseason in an NFL training regimen to get bigger and stronger and to work on his blocking technique and route tree seem extremely likely to yield excellent rewards in a year or so ... assuming the Jets allow him the roster leeway.
Zac Stacy (Running Back)
In addition to keeping Chris Ivory, the Jets loaded up on running backs this offseason by bringing back Bilal Powell and Darryl Richardson before signing Stevan Ridley and then trading for Zac Stacy during the NFL Draft. While Todd Bowles would not place newcomers Stacy and Ridley into the team's ordinal depth chart, Stacy has to be the most intriguing darkhorse of the group. In one of the best running back classes in recent memory, why did the Jets chose to move a seventh round pick for a player displaced by both Tre Mason and Todd Gurley in St. Louis?
First, go read Matt Waldman's clairvoyant scouting conclusions on Stacy. While it is clear that Stacy is a bowling ball type who ends his run with good lean, his technique and style of play could limit his efficiency. Stacy is a talented player, but one who has not been immune to displacement on the depth chart, much like Bilal Powell.
While Ivory has been seeing lots of work this spring as a runner and pass catcher, Chan Gailey prizes running backs who can be effective in both the run and pass. during their Because of Stacy's physical gifts and solid measured speed and agility he profiles as a player who might wind up as the best pass-catcher of the group and for that reason Rotoviz is intrigued by the opportunity Stacy might get in New York. Antony Amico wrote for Rotoviz that:
I absolutely think that Stacy has a chance to be the Jets’ lead point scorer at RB this season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him pass Ivory at some point this year for carries due to his ability as a receiver (and Ivory’s lack of ability there). Stacy is the only player on the team with true workhorse history.Apparently the team might have told the former Ram as much behind closed doors. "Coming into a system that obviously has competition going in but has good opportunities as well," Stacy told Kristian Dyer two weeks ago. Time will tell, but don't be surprised if Stacy doesn't gain some favor in Gailey's eyes if he can demonstrate solid production as a receiver.