The suggestion of playing young players over established veterans is often a sign of packing it in for the season in preparation for the future. In the case of the New York Jets, the movement towards younger players wouldn’t necessarily signal that. It would actually be a wise move not just for the future but for the 2012 season.
At linebacker, there is a zero percent chance Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace will be on the roster next year. They are currently ineffective at linebacker, considering the Jets are ranked 31st against the run and have 5 total sacks in 5 games. There is no logical reason not to immediately start giving Demario Davis at least 50 percent of Scott’s reps at inside linebacker. He is going to be the starter there next season so let him get experience now. In the meantime, he can’t perform at a much lower level than Scott, so you aren’t losing anything this season. At least you are gaining speed and more of a threat on blitzes, along with somebody who has some type of skill set in coverage.
On the outside, Pace is sluggish rushing the passer but remains valuable setting the edge in the run game. However, opposite of him the Jets should be rotating Bryan Thomas with both Garret McIntyre and Ricky Sapp. In particular, Sapp deserves an opportunity on passing downs. Aaron Maybin has been totally ineffective through five games. Similar to inside linebacker, how much more ineffective could a McIntyre/Sapp platoon be than Thomas and Maybin? They can’t be. Give them the reps and maybe a player like Sapp develops into a viable option for next season.
At running back, even though you never want to write off Mike Tannenbaum’s incompetence, Shonn Greene should not be back. He has been the least productive running back in the NFL through five games, so why continue to play him? It is physically impossible for Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and Jonathan Grimes not to be better than him. Let the three young backs play all the reps and hope that one flashes enough to merit a roster spot as a complimentary back next year to whomever you add to be the primary back.
We touched on this earlier at wide receiver but the Jets are smart to avoid adding any veterans. It has become popular to lump all the Jets wide receivers together as a pile of garbage, which is both invalid and unfair. Jeremy Kerley is averaging nearly 20 yards per catch and has caught 15 passes on 23 targets, a highly respectable rate particularly in this offense. He is showing signs of developing into a very good receiver and is going to flourish from the extra reps this season. We knew Stephen Hill would be a project coming out of a triple option offense. He will take his lumps this year, mixed in with big plays. Let’s not forget he had 89 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns in his NFL debut. Hill was a legitimate 2nd round pick, not a reach. He has the skill set to develop into a big play receiver in the NFL, he just needs more seasoning. When he gets back healthy, give him all the reps he can get. Kerley and Hill could be the starting point of a quality group of receivers in future years.
It makes no sense to play veterans who won’t be on the team next year if they are completely ineffective. It may not be easy for Rex Ryan to sit players like Scott, Thomas and Greene but their play has earned them a spot on the bench and nowhere else.