I have been sitting at home thinking about the upcoming season and what I cannot wait to watch for, and what I am going to hate watching for the Jets this coming season. This may be similar to Tinley 24's great article on 5 Players That I Expect to See Improvement From article, but my thoughts are more spread out and less concentrated on one specific area.
My first group of thoughts are players to watch for. Now I am thinking of some of the less obvious players to look out for. So rookies, and certain QB's are not included in this group.
The first person that comes to mind is Kyle Wilson. Yes I know, I did not say Sanchez. For some reason he is the first person that comes to mind. I do believe that there is good reason as to why we should keep an eye on Kyle especially in the preseason. As most of you already know, Wilson was our 1st round pick in 2010. After a semi-disappointing rookie season, Kyle trained hard last offseason with Revis and seemed to show some improvement in coverage throughout the season even though he often played out of position. Wilson is about to begin his 3rd season and I think that we are going to see the impact that he will be able to make as a the CB opposite Revis Island.
My particular interest in Wilson has several different implications behind it: 1) If Wilson shows major improvement in the preseason then that could potentially shake up what the CB starting tandem looks like. I personally think that Wilson has the potential to be better than Cro in a year or two and I think it would be worth shopping Cro around while he still has good value. I think that if we were to trade him to a team desperate for a CB (either from injury or lack of skill) then we may be able to milk a 2nd round pick for Cromartie. I think that we are going to need to maximize on picks for this upcoming draft and it would be smart to get maximum value for Cromartie while we still can. 2) If Wilson shows improvement we would be able to consider moving Cro over to FS. Now I know that Cro isn't the most dependable tackler, and he doesn't have the greatest strength, but his coverage skills would surpass those of any other safety we have on the roster. Point is: If Wilson shows a lot of improvement then that makes Cro expendable and offers Rex flexibility at the safety position.
More after the jumpAnother combination of players to watch for are Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight. With more of the Wildcat being run, and McKnight being the likely candidate on passing downs, I think that McKnight will get more snaps then people anticipate. This is a big year for both Shonn and Joe for numerous reasons.
1) The ground and pound will be what wins us or loses us most games- Shonn Greene must be able to gain more yards a carry and burst through gaps more this season than last season. Averaging 65.9 yards a game simply will not cut it. Last year we were 29th in the NFL in average yards per carry with 3.8, and 22nd in the league with 105.8 running yards per game. That simply will not due for this team to succeed. We need to at least be averaging 130-140 yards per game with a 4.4-4.8 yard per carry average for this offense to be contributing. Shonn Greene may be the most important person in our offense if he takes the majority of the attempts.
2) Greene is in the final year of his rookie contract (615k made this year) and this is his make-or-break year. No more excuses, he is in an offense that is designed to give rb's room to run and gaps to punish. Most players thrive in their contract years and in this offense I expect nothing less of a 4.3 run per attempt average and 1,250 yards rushing.
3) McKnight will most likely be the prime running back in Wildcat formations and should also be a key contributor to our offense. If he shows up and Shonn Greene decides not to, then we will not have to resign Greene (who I anticipate will be looking to get paid more than what the Jets should ever consider giving him) and we won't have to use a high pick in the 2013 draft on a RB. I am not really sure what to expect out of a 3rd down passing situation, and Wildcat formation back, but he will be contributing nonetheless.
One last player to watch: Dustin Keller
I know I am going with most of the players that are not usually mentioned like Sanchez, Tebow, Holmes and Landry, but Keller will also need to show the fulfillment of his potential this season.
Statistically speaking Keller didn't finish that bad, 815 receiving yards (6th most among TE's) 65 receptions (9th in the league among TE's). Although those are good things, Keller has a reputation for dropping too many passes. I could not find 2011's stats but in '10 he had a ridiculous 14% drop rate. Keller isn't 100% to blame here but is not acceptable. He has all of the athleticism, height, and mismatches needed to be an elite TE, yet he was either under or mis-utilized. I expect to see Sparano to see the potential mismatches that he can get out of Keller. Keller needs to prove that he can be the reliable and effective passing option that he can and should be. I think that he is highly over-looked and needs to be looked at as a main component for this offense to be rolling. Everyone looks to Holmes and Hill for receiving production, but I think a lot of the receiving production has and needs to come through Keller, but in a more reliable fashion.
For the record
Sanchez will finish the season with less turnovers, and less touchdowns. Maybe 17-20 TD's with 9-11 INT's. Overall, I think he rises above all of the pressure but not in a way that is leaps-and-bounds noticeable. Believe it or not, Sanchez's accuracy technically improved over the last few seasons. From rookie year to his third year he had a 53.8%, and 54.8% to a 56.7% last season. I think that the trend stays up and he goes to a 58.5% this season. Still not 60% but improvement nonetheless.
Jets will finish in the top 5 for overall defense. I think that the run defense will get better, passing defense will be about the same, maybe a slight better.
Jets will move from 25 field goal attempts to 37 field goal attempts making 29 of those.
McKnight will be the primary kickoff returner, and Kerley will be the primary punt returner.
Shonn Greene will show some improvement. This doesn't say much considering that he averaged a mediocre 4.2 yards per carry, but I think he stays about the same with a 4.2 yard per carry average and gains 1,163 yards rushing with 277 rushing attempts. Overall, a career best year for him, but I envision him asking way too much from Free Agency. Maybe given how little the RB position seems to be valued, and most everyone has a primary back, he may not get the contract that he is looking for. If he is cheap enough, maybe we resign him.
Yes, Sanchez will begin the season starting, and end the season starting, no matter how much Skip Bayless and Mike Greenberg call for Sanchez's head.
I see the lack of run game from Shonn Greene, and the lack of safety's that can cover TE's to be the main reasons we do not make playoffs this year. That'll be explained in the next part of Thoughts on the Upcoming Season Series of posts.