A quick hitting 12 pack for your Friday afternoon, focusing on twelve New York Jets who will be critical to the team’s success in 2012 but aren’t receiving the same media adoration of Tim Tebow or media scorn of Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.
1. Muhammad Wilkerson – Last year’s first round pick, who had a good not great rookie season. Wilkerson is steady against the run and showed flashes of being able to get after the passer. If he takes advantage of his first full off-season, the Jets pass rush will receive a needed boost in 2012.
2. Joe McKnight – A player who could be a huge factor on offense if used properly. We saw Reggie Bush flourish last year in Miami under Tony Sparano and McKnight has a similar skill set. He could also take advantage of the Jets using the Wildcat with Tim Tebow by having the speed to make plays on the edge of the defense.
3. Jeremy Kerley – Should be given the opportunity to flourish as the team’s slot receiver. Kerley has excellent quickness and began to come on strong at the end of his rookie season.
4. Austin Howard – Who? A guy who could be given the opportunity to become the starting right tackle if Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse play like they did last season.
5. Bilal Powell – If the Jets are going to be as run heavy as they indicate, there should be a role for Powell. The Jets spent a 4th round pick on him last season, so they might as well give him a chance. He didn’t look impressive at all when given a chance last season but maybe with a full off-season under his belt he could improve.
6. Josh Mauga – Even if Bart Scott hangs on to the starting inside linebacker job, Mauga will likely see time on passing downs. The Jets need to find a long term answer opposite David Harris. Can Mauga give any indications this year that he could be that guy?
7. Kenrick Ellis – He basically had a red shirt rookie season, if he can’t become a part of the regular defensive line rotation in 2012, it is certainly going to look like he was a wasted third round pick.
8. John Conner – You don’t hear much about The Terminator these days. It would be nice to see him become a consistent short yardage threat and a more reliable receiver out of the backfield.
9. Ellis Lankster – Somebody has to fill Marquice Cole’s role on all the special teams.
10. Jeff Cumberland – Showed flashes of being a valuable weapon in the passing game last year. Problem is, how many pass catching tight ends does Tony Sparano have use for?
11. Caleb Schlauderaff – If Matt Slauson isn’t ready for the season because of off-season surgery, Schlauderaff would step in as the starter.
12. Kyle Wilson – His role should continue to grow on Rex Ryan’s defense. Could we see him line up at free safety in a few looks?