Lost in the shuffle of the ongoing quarterback controversy surrounding the New York Jets is that other players actually took the field yesterday…and many performed well for a refreshing change of pace. These last four games remain critically important for many young players on the team’s roster who will be expected to be key parts in 2013 and beyond. Here is a recap of a few who stood out –
Bilal Powell – His role is growing every single week and he is taking advantage of it. Yesterday Powell finished with 58 yards on 12 carries, finishing with a 4.8 YPC. He broke a 17 yard run that helped propel the team’s only touchdown drive. Powell has good vision and is both shiftier and quicker than Shonn Greene. There is no reason that Powell can’t be a capable 1B option and 3rd down back for the team next season. On the year, Powell has 70 carries for 278 yards for 4.0 yards per carry. Hopefully, he can finish the season getting 10-15 carries each week and maintain that average at over 4 yards.Stephen Hill – It has been a rough year for the rookie but yesterday was a step in the right direction. Hill had 5 catches for 40 yards and drew a penalty. What was encouraging is that many of the catches Hill made were difficult ones in traffic. He is going to be the team’s starting split end next year, so he must build momentum heading into 2013. Now that Hill looks like he is gaining confidence in the shorter passing game, it would be nice to see the Jets hit a big play down the field to him which is the primary thing he was drafted for.
Jeremy Kerley – It wasn’t a gaudy statistical game (3 catches, 37 yards) but Kerley made difficult catches in tight coverage. Most notably pulling down a key third down conversion with elite cornerback Patrick Peterson draped all over him. This has been a terrific all around season for Kerley who still has an outside shot of having a 1,000 yard season in one of the league’s worst passing offenses which is pretty damn impressive. If Hill develops alongside him and Santonio Holmes comes back healthy, the Jets have the makings of a very good group of receivers in 2013.
Muhammad Wilkerson – This isn’t anything new but Wilkerson is maintaining his play at a Pro-Bowl level. The 2nd year player is one of the few recent draft picks Mike Tannenbaum can really hang his hat on. If the Jets ever find an outside linebacker who can get into a quarterbacks’s zip code, watch for an explosion of stats by Wilkerson who will finally get to deal with less double teams. Put it this way, if you were playing the Jets wouldn’t just triple Wilkerson and let Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas and their 7.8 forty yard dash times run free at the quarterback?
LaRon Landry – Not a “young player” but somebody who is making a strong case to be brought back in 2013. Landry isn’t without his flaws (occasional lapses in coverage and missed tackles) but on the whole he has brought a needed playmaking element and physical attitude to the Jets backend.