The New York Jets have an inordinate number of players with injury questions slated for critical roles in 2013. This week’s 12 Pack is going to run through those players and discuss what could happen if they are healthy (Hooray!) or injured (womp-womp). Note, this focuses on players who have current injury issues or have recently had them.
1. Santonio Holmes - Coming off serious foot surgery and still hasn’t been able to begin running at full speed yet. Holmes is easily the team’s most experienced and proven playmaker. If he is healthy and focused, he should lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Holmes would provide needed balance to the offense and give defensive coordinators a player to consistently concern themselves with on the outside. If he isn’t healthy, the Jets arguably have the worst group of receivers in football and would have players like Stephen Hill and Ben Obomanu stretched way too thin.
2, Stephen Hill - The 2nd year receiver is coming off fairly serious knee surgery and still had issues with fluid being drained from his knee in mini-camp. Hill needs all the work he can get because of his struggles with catching the football and running routes. If healthy, Hill can hopefully take a step forward towards fulfilling his 2nd round potential as a deep threat and a full time split end. If he is limited, he will move that much closer to being a bust and limit the Jets big play capabilities on offense.
3. Chris Ivory - Slated to be the Jets feature back but he has struggled with injuries throughout his short NFL career. If Ivory can’t be the team’s workhorse, the running game is going to struggle and the offense will have a tough time finding their identity. If he is healthy, Ivory has the potential be a 1,400 yard back behind the Jets offensive line and their go to player on offense.
4. Willie Colon - A presumptive starter at Guard, Colon has a high ceiling because of his natural physical ability and power as a run blocker. Hopefully, he will be a driving force behind a successful rushing attack. Yet, in recent years he has torn his Achilles and triceps, causing him to miss substantial time. If Colon can’t stay on the field, the Jets will be forced to lean too heavily on Stephen Peterman and rookie Brian Winters, causing their running game to suffer.
5. Antwan Barnes - Signed to boost the team’s pass rush, Barnes missed 5 games in 2010 and 2012. Barnes would provide a nice compliment to Quinton Coples and bring needed juice off the edge for the Jets defense. Without Barnes, the Jets are exceptionally thin at outside linebacker and will struggle to consistently get after the quarterback with Coples likely seeing many double teams.
6. Kellen Winslow Jr - Recently signed, Winslow Jr is talented enough to walk into the team’s starting job at tight end and become one of the team’s go to receivers…which speaks both to his ability and the Jets lack of depth at tight end and receiver. If he is washed up or can’t stay on the field, the Jets are that much thinner at tight end by over-stretching Jeff Cumberland and will lack a true threat down the seam.
7. Antonio Garay - Only played in 8 games last season and nearly missed the whole year back in 2009. Garay is talented enough to be a starter on the defensive line and see major reps in the team’s rotation. The potential of a Garay, Kenrick Ellis, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Quinton Coples rotation is tantalizing. If Garay is hurt, it may put too much on the plate of Ellis and Richardson right out of the gate.
8. Dee Milliner - Milliner was a top ten pick despite a multitude of injuries, including a recent shoulder surgery, a rod in his tibia and hernia surgery. He is expected to be 100% for training camp and the Jets have the rookie slated for a starting role in their defense. Milliner has the skill-set to be a capable #2 corner from day one. WIthout him, Kyle Wilson will be forced into a starting role, where he has struggled and it hurts the overall depth (which is currently solid) at the cornerback position.
9. Nick Mangold - Played in 16 games last season but was banged up throughout the year, somewhat limiting his effectiveness. He missed time in 2011 which was disastrous for the Jets. Simply put, the Jets really aren’t equipped to deal with him missing any time. He is the leader of the offensive line and not a replaceable part.
10. Kenrick Ellis - Similar to what we wrote above about Antonio Garay, the Jets need Ellis to balance out their defensive line rotation. He is their largest defensive lineman and the only player equipped to be a true nose tackle in 3-4 alignments on the roster. Ellis flashed potential last year but if he can’t stay on the field this year, the team may cut ties with him after the season.
11. Mike Goodson - Pending legal availability, Goodson will be the team’s third down back, primary backup at running back and maybe their kick returner. He provides needed big play ability and receiving ability to the backfield. However, he has struggled with various leg injuries throughout his career. If Goodson isn’t available because of injuries, it will be more on the plate of the oft-injured Joe McKnight or the substantially less explosive Bilal Powell.
12. Joe McKnight - Can never stay healthy but if he can, has potential to be a contributing flex player on offense who has a package of plays as a running back and slot receiver, along with the team’s kick returner. The team is short on playmakers, so McKnight has value.