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What under the radar New York Jets addition this offseason will have the biggest impact on the 2016 season?
Joe Caporoso – While I think you can make a strong argument for Jarvis Jenkins as a key rotational piece on the defensive line, I’m going to dig a little deeper and go with returner/receiver Jeremy Ross. He is experienced and explosive on special teams. If Ross can improve his ball security, he is the favorite to be both the kick and punt returner while also providing further depth at wide receiver. The Jets spread the field regularly and Ross has the speed to stretch the defense on the outside while Devin Smith recovers from injury, potentially opening up a larger than expected role on offense.
David Aitken – Steve McClendon has gone under the radar as a cost-effective replacement for Damon Harrison, and I expect he’ll remain a little under the radar even throughout the year. With much of the Jets top talent clustered at defensive end and no longer an elite anchor in the middle, the “big three” at end are certain to earn the highest percentage of snaps of the group. They’ll also undeniably be the most productive. McClendon is not Harrison level of dominant in the middle of a defense, but he was a capable interior lineman for a Pittsburgh defense that was amongst the best versus the run last year. He’s not going to rack up big statistics, but he’s a little more versatile and quick than the mammoth-like Harrison (McClendon is several inches shorter and a listed 40 pounds lighter after all). This should allow for some more creative deployment of everybody on the line, which should in turn make for more favorable match-ups for the elite talent McClendon will play alongside.
Joe Malfa – Steve McLendon is so under the radar that even when I’ve mentioned him to die-hards that usually know the roster inside-out, I’ve been met with a sort of puzzled “who the heck is he?” type look. Come September, everyone will know his name.
The 6’3″ 310-pound most tackle will be charged with filling the massive hole left by Damon Harrison, but he has what it takes to plug-up the center of that defensive line. The front seven is good as a whole, but it is up to the nose tackle to be the first man in the backfield to disrupt the run. Fans will be accustomed to hearing “Steve McLendon on the stop — no gain on the play.”
Nikki Charlesworth – Looking across the range of the more under the radar additions, I’d pinpoint DE Jarvis Jenkins as one with the potential to have a big impact. A second round pick, he entered the league as one of the most dynamic and athletic defensive linemen in his class but was sidelined by serious injury and then suspension. This marred his time with the Redskins, who failed to re-sign him, prompting a move to Chicago in 2015 where he showed flashes of brilliance. Jenkins has long been described as ‘starting calibre’, but his performance hasn’t yet matched up to expectations. The Jets system and coaching staff, maybe can bring what Jenkins has been lacking in order to reach his billed potential. Combining this with the opportunity created by the loss of Damon Harrison and the suspension (albiet one game), of Sheldon Richardson, Jenkins could prove a key part of the d-line rotation and help maintain the Jets’ position as one of the premier lines in the league.
Kevin Zielaznicki – With most of the attention on draft picks focused towards linebacker Darron Lee and quaterback Christian Hackenberg, many fans and analysts are overlooking the addition of the Jets third round pick Jordan Jenkins. Due to the departure of 1000 year old Calvin Pace, the Jets have an opening at outside linebacker and Jenkins will have all the opportunity in the world during training camp to seize that spot. Jenkins has the strength and toughness to do the dirty work of the Jets defense from the SAM linebacker spot and he showed he is capable of dropping back into coverage at Georgia. He also has experience playing on the defensive line and we all know Todd Bowles loves versatility from his defensive players. By the time training camp is done, I think Jenkins will have won the starting SAM job and will have a solid rookie season.
John Hargaden – Everyone has been talking about the signing of RB Matt Forte but I am looking at the addition of Khiry Robinson as well and believe he is going to have a break out 2016 season. Robinson plays like a smaller Chris Ivory. He is not a big but it does take a lot to bring him down. It will be interesting to see how Chan Gailey uses the three headed monster of Forte, Powell and Robinson. I would expect Robinson to be in on potential 2nd and 3rd down situations and to be used as well in the red zone. Robinson has been slowed down due to injuries the past few seasons but if he can stay healthy he can be a under the radar guy for 2016.
Sean Walsh – The Jets have brought in many great off season acquisitions such as Matt Forte and Ryan Clady which have been well publicized. There is one player tho who I think has gone a little under the radar and under appreciated is new Jets RB from NOLA Khiry Robinson.
Robinson is coming off a broken leg but he is a vicious and violent runner who will add much to the Jets RB core with the great all round game of Forte and the pass catching ability of Bilial Powell. Robinson has played played in 28 games over the past three seasons with the Saints with 186 carries for 766 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and eight touchdowns, along with 25 receptions for 178 yards (7.1 yards/catch).
While those numbers don’t jump out at you, the West Texas A&M alumni is in the top echelon of backs who break tackles and get yards after contact. He brings that violent running style to Gang Green and will be used predominantly by Coach Gailey in the short yardage situations and red zone opportunities
Alex Kaczynski – I believe that the Jets punting situation has been under the radar this offseason. A very overlooked position for any team, the Jets have two young Australian’s competing for the starting job. Lachlan Edwards, a seventh round pick out of Sam Houston State and Tom Hackett, an undrafted free agent out of Utah. The Jets have not had consistency at punter for the past few season, leading to poor field position when they sputtered in their own end. I found myself holding my breath every 4th down, awaiting a 15-20 yard punt. Having a more effective punter will allow for better field control and could ultimately lead to wins. Poor punts can lead to quickly points for the opponent, and is a momentum killer. Take a look at arguably one most important game last season. First quarter, after multiple four-and-outs on both sides. Quigley punts from our own end zone, and shanks it for 21 yards. The Bills score on the next possession and lead for the remainder of the game. Hopefully one of these two players can make an impact and give the Jets someone who can bail them out when they are deep in their own territory. Consistent punting is going to make a huge difference this season for the Jets.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com