The New York Jets appear to be done making major moves to their 2011-2012 roster. Unless there is a major injury or surprising turn of events, the week one staters/key reserves are already in place.
On offense, improvement will be found by young players taking the necessary next step in their development, most notably quarterback Mark Sanchez who now enters his third year. He has clearly established himself as the unquestioned leader of the offense but now must find a higher level of consistency and accuracy on the field. A great season from Sanchez is going to mean the Jets offense will improve, regardless of the turnover at wide receiver.
Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller are two other players who need to fully realize their potential. Similar to Sanchez, Greene is also entering his third year. He failed to become the lead back the Jets drafted him to be last year but now with LaDainian Tomlinson a year older must become the workhorse to lead the “Ground and Pound.” We have seen what Greene is capable of when he gets going and if he can consistently receive 18-22 carries each week, there is no reason he can’t be a 1200 yard back.
We have heard about Dustin Keller’s potential since the day he was drafted, yet have never seen him put together a full season of being consistently productive. With Tom Moore now helping out on offense and the flux at the wide receiver position, Keller needs to become the Dallas Clark type weapon he is capable of being. He should develop into Sanchez’s security blanket and needs to become a bigger factor near the red-zone.
A higher level of productivity from Sanchez, Greene, and Keller will allow Plaxico Burress more time to get acclimated to the NFL again and put less pressure on Derrick Mason as he picks up the intricacies of playing slot receiver in the Jets offense. There is also the hope that Joe McKnight can become another weapon out of the backfield and promising rookie Jeremy Kerley can offer a few big plays at wide receiver.
On defense, the turnover hasn’t been significant. The biggest question mark is on the defensive line where first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson will immediately step into the starting line-up to replace Shaun Ellis.
Yes, I think the Jets did an awful job by letting Ellis walk to the New England Patriots and would like to see them bring back Trevor Pryce as a veteran mentor to Wilkerson. However, it doesn’t appear that is going to happen so Wilkerson must quickly become a key part of a largely no name and somewhat inexperienced defensive line rotation along with third round pick Kenrick Ellis, Ropati Pitoitua, and Marcus Dixon. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito are quality blue-collar players who can lead up front and should help keep the Jets stingy against the run.
At linebacker, it is about time for Calvin Pace to give the Jets a 16 game season and become a 10 sack player. There is no excuse for him not to be in this scheme with his talent level. A contribution from Jamaal Westerman to the pass rush would be nice but Pace is still the team’s pass rusher and needs to produce like it.
In the secondary, Kyle Wilson will have the chance to grab the nickel back role and hopefully develop into the playmaker Drew Coleman was last year. If he can’t, Donald Strickland and maybe Marquice Cole provide good insurance.
On most teams you would be concerned about the turnover on special teams the Jets have seen this off-season, yet with Mike Westhoff leading the way, it is hard to see them not being one the league’s better units again.
Here we are, one week out from the opening pre-season game. Do the Jets still look like a Super Bowl contender to you? They do to me, but only time will tell if the way Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office handled this off-season properly.