All players in the NFL have a certain degree of expectation on their backs and last week we looked at a few Jets who hold the weight of fan expectations as we enter 2015. However, pressure is an altogether different notion; players who are under pressure have more to prove and more to lose; possibly imminently. This week we take a look at those who are facing more than just heightened expectations in 2015 but whose place on the roster going forward could be on a knife edge, depending on events in the forthcoming season.
Geno SmithDespite publicly announcing “I don’t feel pressure”, no one on the Jets faces more pressure for their position than Geno Smith. All quarterbacks face the pressure of being the playmakers but Geno, with two years of inconsistency is walking the tight rope. Love him or loathe him, it is undeniable that this season is make or break for the man who we repeatedly has shown ‘flashes’ but hasn’t met expectations. The NFL is an unforgiving master and Geno will need to show from the start that he is able to build on his most recent performances and overcome his propensity for throwing interceptions.
Geno is not a stranger to being benched, having been sent to the sidelines in favour of Micheal Vick for a few weeks last year and now has Ryan Fitzpatrick waiting in the wings. There are only so many chances a starting QB can be given, Geno will have to step up in 2015 or see himself take the wrong steps once again and fall, for good.
As a first round pick of John Idzik who did not live up to expectations in 2014, Calvin Pryor carries more pressure than most. His drafting did not exactly set the world on fire and his lackluster performances last year certainly did raise his stock. Pryor fully admits that his rookie season was a disappointment, more bad than good and putting it down in parts to the requirement that he was played out of his college position. With the acquisition of Marcus Gilchrist, Pryor has been given the opportunity to return to his favoured position of strong safety and seems revitalised and keen to prove his worth. He will need to do this emphatically to prove that his poor 2014 was down to the difficulties attempting to transition as a rookie in the NFL and not due to his overall talent or potential. Of course, teams do not like to admit that a first round pick may have been wasted, but the fact that Pryor is a product of the ‘old regime’ does provide a handy get out clause should his performances lead Maccagnan and Bowles to decide that his services are superfluous to requirements.Dee Milliner
Dee Milliner has experienced an injury riddled career since arriving in 2013 and like Geno, enters his third season with the Jets with lots to prove. When he was drafted 9th overall in 2013, who would have thought that two years he would be needing to battle for roster positions with the likes of Revis, Cromartie and Skrine? Injuries have put this first round pick’s hopes of being a starting corner again to question each year he’s tried, but he is now under pressure to simply hold his roster place. With the newly appointed recruits having vast experience over Milliner, his worry shouldn’t just be falling further down the depth chart, but also further down the reps list, the ladder he desperately needs to climb in order to bounce back. Todd Bowles is a master of secondaries and will look to utilise a wide range of players in multiple packages but again, Milliner like Pryor, is an Idzik draftee and again of no investment to Bowles and Maccagnan. Dee needs to fight to stay injury free and then demonstrate the best of the talent he’s shown. If he can do this, Milliner may have a future with the Jets however if not he could see himself fall out of favour and his time in green and white ending much sooner than he hoped.
Big Mo finds himself in the unenviable position where the performances of others could have huge influence on his own position and he may be able to do little about it. There is no doubting that he is expected to have another great season as part of the explosive d-line in East Rutherford, but unfortunately this may not be enough to provide the money he is seeking to remain a Jet long term. Unlike Geno, Mo is not at risk of being benched, but with a contact situation looming he could take further hits to his own leverage if performances slip. Leonard Williams is the biggest factor here, particularly if he lives up to his draft day hype. The suspension of Sheldon Richardson, while ensuring Mo will play a vital leadership role in those early weeks only provides Williams more opportunity. Wilkerson is a big fan favourite and a great ambassador for the Jets but it’s situations like this where we are harshly reminded that pro-football is a business. This type of pressure is difficult; it’s Mo’s contract leverage that is what’s at stake.