Well, 2012 is over. Couldn't happen fast enough for Jets fans. The season was an unmitigated disaster. The failures of Sanchez, Mr. T, the special teams, Rex, etc. are legion and have been picked apart ad nauseum. I'd like to take a moment and dwell briefly on the few shining positives to emerge from the rubble and give us a glimmer of hope for the future.
Big Mo emerged as an absolute beast on the defensive line. By season's end he was nearly unblockable, routinely beating double and even triple teams. Wilkerson looks like the real deal, a genuine perennial All Pro candidate and an anchor for the defense for the next 8-10 years. He might even be the start of the new New York Sack Exchange, together with fellow beast in the making,
Coples began the year slowly, as Rex inexplicably refused to play him. With limited snaps, Coples did not record his first sack until Game 6. However, toward the end of the year Rex began to let Coples play, and he was rewarded with performance. Coples finished with a rush, recording 3.5 of his 5.5 total sacks and both of his passes defensed over the last 4 games of the season, and taking over the Jets' team lead in sacks. If the Jets can find one more dynamic pass rusher, they have the makings of a league best defensive line. This could get very interesting in the coming years.
Picked up at the last minute when T. J. Conley proved to be completely inadequate, little was known about Malone when we picked him up off the final cuts scrap heap. But Malone soon proved to be the best punter in Jets history. The 24 year old punter set an all time Jets record with his 45.8 yard average and placed 27 punts inside the 20. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Jets appear to have a long term solution at the punter position.
In a year in which no other Jets receiver caught more than 30 passes for more than 360 yards, Kerley was a lone star on an otherwise painfully bad offense. Coming into the year we weren't quite sure what the Jets had in Jeremy - we are now. Kerley proved himself to be one of the better slot receivers in the entire NFL, and there is little doubt that with even league average QB play Jeremy would have been a 1000 yard receiver. While virtually every other skill position player on the Jets proved inadequate, Kerley looks like a solid building block to begin to rebuild the Jets offense.
Powell is not the most dynamic of runners. He doesn't turn heads, and he isn't a breakaway threat. But he proved to be a solid NFL quality back, who, when given the opportunity, looked like the best RB on the Jets roster. He averaged a solid 4 yards per carry, proved reasonably adept as a receiver out of the backfield, and seems like a solid if unspectacular option at RB. While that may not seem like glowing praise, when you consider he was widely perceived to be a likely training camp cut, Powell actually was a very pleasant surprise this season.
Cumberland came into the year a big fat question mark. He had never been able to stay healthy, and as a result had never accomplished anything on the football field. He exits 2012 as the Jets second leading receiver in both receptions and yards, and the clear favorite to begin 2013 as the Jets #1 tight end, assuming Dustin Keller is not resigned. Cumberland will probably never be a stud, but he proved himself to be a useful piece, and given the Jets current cap constraints, there is a good chance he will be given the opportunity to prove himself to be more than that in 2013.
Reuland began the year as an afterthought, a last minute pickup off the waiver wire when all of the Jets' leading tight ends went down with injury. He ended up the second string tight end with Keller being sidelined, and he performed adequately in that role, proving adept at finding the seam and with soft hands catching the outlet pass. It wasn't much, but he proved to be interesting enough to bring back for a second look and a chance to establish himself next year as a legitimate threat in the passing game.
Walls got very little playing time, only being given an opportunity in the last few games of the year. However,what little I saw of him was mostly pretty promising. Walls has excellent speed, clocking the same 40 time as Darrelle Revis. He likes to play press coverage and is not afraid to get physical. He appears to turn and run well, and his receiver did not seem to get alot of separation. It is much too small a sample to make any definitive judgments, but of all the CBs the Jets have given cameos to in the last two years, Walls looks to me like the most likely to stick. I wouldn't be shocked if he eventually pushed Kyle Wilson out of a job.
So, there they are. The few rays of hope for the future to emerge out of the wreckage of a lost season. It seemed like a good time to give them their just due and celebrate some reasons for cautious optimism for the Jets in this bright shiny New Year.
What about all of you? What young guys do you see as emerging reasons for Jets fans to have some hope for the New Year?