For these players, 2015 marks a “make or break” year, where they can either play themselves into the good graces of the current Florham Park think tank or find themselves cast on to the ever-growing NFL scrap heap. Some of these names are obvious and others less so, but all of these guys are on the Schneid: Cue the music.
Quinton CoplesWhen the Jets a pick on the gifted former Defensive Linemen out of UNC, fans were “licking their chops” at the potential of Gang Green’s defensive line conjuring up memories of the New York Sack Exchange with Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson serving as the key cogs. Whereas Coples’ former high school teammate, Wilkerson has blossomed into one of the best and most versatile Defensive Linemen in the league, Coples has failed to live up to the hype. Having watched him up close and personal during Rookie Minicamp and OTA’s in 2012, I felt as though Coples would prove to be a menace to opposing Quarterbacks as the best “pure pass-rusher” on the team (something I still believe to be the case) but by all accounts, his work ethic leaves a lot to be desired.
We have seen significant flashes from Coples during his tenure with the Jets, delivering some big plays in big moments (see New England 2013) but inconsistency, injuries, and a position change that has yet to really pan out have his future as a member of the Green and White in doubt. As he approaches restricted free agency, “Q” needs to make significant strides as an Outside Linebacker if Mike Maccagnan and company are going to even entertain the notion of offering him any sort of long-term deal. It will be interesting to see how Todd Bowles deploys Coples as he has proven to be a liability in coverage, while showing much more promise with his hand in the dirt however, with an already-stacked group of linemen, it might be tough for him to work his way into the mix where he can make an impact. Personally, I always thought that the shift to Outside Linebacker was the quintessential (no pun intended, see what I did there) “square peg/round hole” scenario so hopefully Bowles can figure out a way to get the most out of Coples.
Given the debacle that was last season for the Jets’ secondary, many consider Pryor’s rookie season to be a total wash, especially because he was forced to play out of position in order to try and make up for the inherent deficiencies in their much-maligned defensive backfield. Coming out of Louisville, the book on Pryor was that he was a big-hitting, roving box-safety along the lines of Troy Polamalu, earning him the “Louisville Slugger” moniker. Given his relative youth as a second-year player and the situation he was thrust into as a Rookie, Pryor is likely to get much more leeway than most of the other players on this list but it will be incumbent upon him to make some big plays early, especially with a replenished secondary that boasts three great corners and a legitimate Free Safety in Marcus Gilchrist.I would love to see the coaching staff give Pryor the ability to freelance closer to the line of scrimmage so he can make some plays in the running game and even rush the passer every now and then, which would not be entirely surprising given Bowles’ affinity for dialing up the blitz. Unless he turns out to be totally hopeless and constantly throws up all over himself, his future status on this roster shouldn’t be in much jeopardy but with the rest of the “Idzik 12” dropping like flies and most of his inaugural draft class on its last legs, it would be an encouraging sign to see that he at least got this pick right.
This is a name that draws a lot of “meh” reactions among Jets fans, including and especially those no our TOJ staff and if that doesn’t say “On the Schneid”, I don’t know what does. Davis is entering his third full season as a starter alongside David Harris and is need of a true breakout season as he has yet to live up to the Ray Lewis comparisons that Rex Ryan offered of him during his Rookie season. Although he had a very solid statistical season last year with 116 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, and two fumble recoveries, Davis is still a liability in coverage and considering he plays next to a guy who has never been known for his coverage abilities in David Harris, he will need to make strides in that realm especially in a division that boasts two monster Tight Ends in the form of Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron. One other thing to note is that, like his fellow 2012 Draft Class-mate Coples, Davis is entering his contract walk year so not only is he auditioning for the Jets but for the rest of the league so it bears watching whether he takes that next step forward in 2015.
Dee MillinerWith all of the off-season moves made to bolster the secondary, this season was supposed to give Milliner the opportunity to recover from his laundry list of injuries (most recently a broken wrist) as he sat and learned from some of the best Cornerbacks in the business in hopes that he could work his way into the mix. However, Milliner seems to be snake-bitten by a seemingly never-ending stream of injuries, with the Jets placing on short-term IR, the earliest you can expect to see him is Week 9 and as the old adage goes: “You can’t make plays in the training room.” It will be interesting to see how the Cornerback rotation shapes up behind Darrelle Revis, especially if Antonio Cromartie continues to be inconsistent but barring injuries, it will be pretty tough for Milliner to work his way back into the mix.
Although it feels like we pretty much know what Jeff Cumberland is at this point, he now finds himself with stranglehold on the “Number One” Tight End position by virtue of Jace Amaro’ shoulder injury. On paper, you wouldn’t think that Cumberland would even be among the Top-Five targets/options for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets’ offense but if there was ever an opportunity for him to prove that he’s worthy of being a starter in this league, it would be right now. Kellen Davis is certainly no threat in the passing game so the onus is on Cumberland to potentially be that safety valve when opponents try and take away Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. However, many speculate that because Tight Ends aren’t really a focal point in Chan Gailey’s offense, Cumberland won’t see a tremendous amount of snaps and could even be spelled by Quncy Enunwa. That said, this is a position I would imagine the organization would try and upgrade moving into next season so Cumberland needs and has the chance to make a case for why he should factor into that equation.