Camp Countdown '08: Backfield
There is very little intrigue at the top of the depth chart. Jones is firmly entrenched as the starter based on the deal he signed in 2007 and it is very unlikely that anyone mounts a battle to unseat him. At Fullback, the Jets feel as if they finally have an answer at the position with the addition of veteran Tony Richardson, a terrific blocker whose career is winding down.
Beyond the starters is where it gets interesting. The Jets have put together a crowded field of free agents and rookies to compete for roster spots. Leon Washington has been here for two seasons and is a valuable asset on special teams, but the team used him much less in 2007 than they did in 2006 as a 3rd down specialist. The Jets brought in RB Jesse Chatman, a similar player to Washington, seemingly to compete for a roster spot. Chatman is familiar with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer from his days in San Diego so he should have little trouble fitting in here. Late in the offseason the team signed Musa Smith, a versatile player whose career has been somewhat derailed by inuries, from the Ravens to add to the crowded field. Smith can play RB, FB, and contribute on special teams. Undrafted free agent Danny Woodhead is an undersized speed demon who made a good enough impression on the Jets staff that they were on the phone with him before the NFL Draft even ended. Jehuu Caulcrick is a bruising runner that could find use in short yardage situations, the type of runner the Jets have lacked for a very long time. Justin Valentine will look to compete as a fullback for the team.
It would be hard to imagine Washington not making the team as the backup unless they got a great offer to trade him, which makes Chatman a longshot to make the team, but bringing Smith in has to make one think that the Jets are considering every option. The Jets have already worked with Woodhead on punt returns so his best chance to make the team would look to be as a special teamer. Since Richardson rarely, if ever, carries the football Caulcrick would seem to have as good a chance as an undrafted player can have of making the final roster, while Valentine looks to be a very long shot to make the team.
The Jets did carry 6 backs in 2006, but the Jets had no steady runner at the time and were simply sorting their way through everyone when the season began. By seasons end Derrick Blaylock was no longer active and Kevan Barlow saw little if any game action. In 2007 the Jets only carried 4 players in the backfield with Jones set as the unquestioned starter. With the uncertainty at QB and the offseason focus on the offensive line the Jets seem to be heading towards a more ground based offense and its likely they carry an extra body this year to bring the total to 5. With Jones, Richardson, and Washington looking like locks, itís a competition for two spots. Caulcrick is unique enough for the team that he should be the 4th. Bill Callahan, the man in charge of the Jets running attack, loved to use big powerful guys in goalline situations when he was in Oakland and Caulcrick would fill that mold perfectly. It will likely come down to special teams for that 5th position. Chatman, Woodhead, or Smith will have to stand out in that role if they want to make the team. Smithís versatility makes him the most likely to make it as the 5th player. If Valentine really impresses he could be a practice squad player with Richardsonís age and durability being a concern, especially if the Jets carry 5 backs on the active roster, but he is going to have to really make a great impression to get a spot. Woodhead would also look like a player to have a chance as a practice squad player while Chatman will really have to stand out to make the team.