Coming into the 2013 season, the jets had a plethora of young players on their rosters trying to prove that they can be solid starters in this league. I am going to divide the young players into three lists:
1) Players who showed in the 2013 season that they will never be solid starters in this league.
2) Players who showed in the 2013 season that they got what it takes.
3) Players who have plenty to prove in 2014.
Let's start with the young players who showed that they will never be solid starters in this league.
a) Jeff Cumberland: Every Jet fan knows Jeff Cumberland is not a good blocker. However, at the beginning of the season Rex Ryan showed in one of his video press conferences clips that point out how Jeff became an improved blocker. I was very encouraged by that at first, however Jeff was never able to translate this improvement as a blocker during the regular season. In fact, the jets lacked a true blocking tight end all season (especially after Rueland went down) which is part of the reason they couldn't protect Geno in Blitz situations. I also caught Jeff being blown back by a safety during the Miami game on a run play. This would all be okay if Cumberland broke out as pass catcher during he season, but he didn't. He got plenty of playing time and was healthy all year but was unable to consistently be effective. I wouldn't mind bringing Cumberland back as a #3 tight end in 2014, but he proved that he will never be a starting tight end in this league.
b) Josh Bush: Another young player who was very unspectacular. I feel guilty putting him on this list because he got so little playing time all season. The thing that drove me to put him on this list, however, is the fact that he is just a very poor tackler. He missed a lot of tackles on special throughout the season that caused big returns. Safeties are expected to be good tacklers. If you don't believe me, look at how the run defense slipped when Ed Reed came to the jets. The fact that Josh was beaten by Jaiqwan Jarret shows what the coaches think of Josh.
c) Vlad Ducasse: He got a chance and underwhelmed once again. He had a good game against Vince Wilfork but that was about it. Everything else was false starts and getting beat cleanly by defensive ends. When I watched the jets offense at the snap of the ball, all I had to do was look at Ducasse to see if the pocket was gunna hold up.
d) Stephen Hill: It was very frustrating to watch him disappear the way he did. His acceleration isn't that good and he just isn't nifty enough to get open on a consistent basis. He doesn't judge the ball very well and he drops the ball way too often. Some people are great athletes, others are great receivers and Hill is not a great receiver. I wouldn't give up on him yet but I don't think he will ever be a starter in the NFL. At best, Hill will become a number 3 wide out that knows how to block.
2) Players that showed they have what it takes:
a) Antonio Allen: Coming out of college he was known to be a great run stopper but a liability in coverage. However this season he was very impressive in coverage. Not just against Rob Gronkowski, but he rarely allowed any completions all season. Even when he did, his coverage was very tight and the ball was placed perfectly. He is the future starting strong safety for the jets.
b) Sheldon Richardson: This guy is going to be a starter on the jets line for a very long time. If he improves from year one to year two in pass rushing the way Mo Wilkerson did, watch out. He has the tools to be a great pass rusher and I believe he will be. His ability to blow up screens and chase running backs from behind gives you the illusion that the jets are playing with an extra linebacker on the field.
c) Demario Davis: Demario Davis had a great start to the season but then he started missing tackles and his coverage became a bit looser. The thing about Demario ,however is his sideline to sideline speed. He was one the main reasons the jets where able to set the edge in 2013 better than in 2012. Let's not forget Demario was the reason the jets beat the Buccaneers with his game saving tackle of Vincent Jackson. The ceiling for Demario is very high but the floor is very high as well which is why he is on this list.
d) Austin Howard: He was the best offensive linemen for the Jets in 2013. He is a great run blocker and always graded positive in pass protection in PPF. He is proving that he can even be a more reliable tackle that Ferguson.
e) Jeremy Kerley: He can line up anywhere on the field and be effective which is unusual for a slot receiver. He always finds a way to get open and has very reliable hands.
f) Damon Harrison: He is an immovable object in the run game which is what you want in a nose tackle. Not only that he is also able to penetrate the line frequently and tackle running back for a loss. Watching him on film is the only way to truly see how good this guy has played.
e) Bilal Powell: It's a shame Powell gets no love because he has proven that he is a very good player. He is stronger than you think and faster than you think.The thing that makes Powell special is his ability to pick the right hole to run. He is also very crucial in the passing game and is the best pass protecting back the jets have. I feel good about Powell splitting carries with Ivory next season. The Jets should also keep Goodson or bring in a Goodson type player who has home run ability. The three backs should complement each other perfectly well heading into next season.
3) Players who have plenty to prove in 2014:
a) Brian Winters: He was so inconsistent its very hard to see if he can be the guy or not. The thing about Winters is that he is a good athlete but lacks strength. He was underwhelming in the Bench Press at the combine and was pushed back a lot on run plays. He was very effective at pull blocks and on screens because of his athleticism. If he is going to be the future starter at left guard, he needs to improve his strength during the offseason The good news is he doesn't make the mental errors Vlad used to make.
b) Dee Millner: He improved greatly during the end of the season against Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace. It's hard to imagine him not playing well in 2014 because of his great athletic ability. The cornerback position requires consistency and only time will tell if Milliner has that.
c) Quiton Coples: Like Millner ,Coples emerged late in the season, but unlike Millner, Coples' floor is really high. He already proved that he is a great run stopper from the OLB position. Teams had no success running the ball at his side and he made some spectacular plays against the run during the season. Against the pass he was decent, showing that he can get to the quarterback at times but also getting handled by tackles at other times. The thing about Coples is that he takes plays off. He is the opposite of Sheldon Richardson or McIntyre and it shows on film. Getting to the quarterback is all about effort and when the effort isn't there the pressure on the qb isn't there. No wonder Rex gets frustrated with him.
More young players proved themselves as future solid starters than not during the 2013 season which is why this season should be viewed as a success.