New York Jets 2011 Season in Review: Handing out the Best of and Worst of Awards

Chris Dela RosaContributor IJanuary 2, 2012

New York Jets 2011 Season in Review: Handing out the Best of and Worst of Awards

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    The New York Jets' 2011 season did not go the way anyone had planned.  It started similar to the last few years with Rex Ryan making his usual preseason guarantee that the New York Jets are going to win the Super Bowl.

    Unlike 2009 and 2010, Rex Ryan and Gang Green could not even make the playoffs after inconsistent play throughout the season caught up with the Jets as they ended their season on a three game losing streak.

    With that, let's take a look at the 2011 season as a whole and give out the best of and worst awards.

    As always, feedback is welcome.  Enjoy!

Best Play of the Year: Isiah Trufant Blocked Punt Recovery for a TD

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    This great play by the New York Jets special teams helped the Jets win their very first game of the season.  After being down 24-10 with about 10 minutes remaining and with the Cowboys in the red zone, the Jets needed a victory to win, and that is exactly what they got.

    Although there were several great plays the Jets had during their comeback, this one is what really gave them the momentum to comeback and finish off the Cowboys.

    Following this touchdown, Darrelle Revis caught his first interception since the 2009 season and then Nick Folk kicked a game-winning 50-yard field goal.

    The resiliency displayed by the Jets was great as this big first win came on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Worst Play of the Year

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    This was possibly the most devastating play of the 2011 season for the New York Jets.  They had a late lead going against the Denver Broncos and were set to bounce back after a bad game against the Patriots earlier that week.

    Rather than being conservative on third down, Rex Ryan chose to send as many people as he could while leaving everybody in man to man coverage.  On that blitz, the below average safety Eric Smith overran the play and cost the Jets a big win.

    Following the loss, the Jets went on a three game win streak to improve their record to 8-5, but could not follow through in their final three games and will now enjoy an early start to the offseason.

Worst Game of the Year

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    Continuing with the "worst of" pattern, lets take a look at which Jets lost was the worst during the 2011.  Of their eight losses, the worst has to be the loss to the Giants on Christmas Eve, leaving Jets fans with coal in their stockings in 2011.

    Going into this game, the Jets were still in complete control of their playoff destiny.  They knew that with a win against the Giants and a win against Miami (which still didn't happen), they would be in the playoffs for a third year in a row.  Not to mention, they would have bragging rights in the city of New York for the next four years until the two play each other again.

    After a week filled with chatter between both teams, it seemed like everything was in the Jets favor after one half of football.  They went out and dominated on both sides of the ball aside from the one big touchdown by Victor Cruz and looked like the Jets teams from 2009 and 2010.

    Then everything went array when Brian Schottenheimer chose to switch up the play-calling and deviate from the ground and pound, which was very successful as Shonn Greene was picking up 4-6 yards on almost every carry.  After a few turnovers and touchdowns by the Giants, the Jets found themselves pressing the panic button and could not overcome the hole they put themselves in.

    Because of this loss, the Jets were bumped to the bottom of the "in the hunt" category for the playoffs and would have needed a New Years Day miracle in order to make the playoffs, and obviously that did not happen.

Best Rookie

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    Jeremey Kerley, the fifth round pick out of TCU has proven to be a great addition to the Jets roster.  After a preseason where he was below average and did not show much, Kerley began to catch the eyes of the coaches during regular season practices.

    His performance in practice and positive attitude led the Jets to promote him and make him a starter and trade away veteran Derrick Mason who was like a cancer in the Jets locker room.

    Since his first game as a starter back in Week 5, Jeremy Kerley has caught 29 passes for 314 yards with one touchdown.  He has not only proved himself as a talented slot receiver, but Kerley has been a solid punt returner and helps the Jets with their wildcat formation.  Check out this great pass Kerley makes to the backup tight end Matthew Mulligan.

    Expect big things from Kerley going forward.

Worst Rookie

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    Jets rookie defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis entered this season with high expectations.  Going into the draft last year, Ellis was looked at as first-round talent, but his issues off the field made his value decrease tremendously.

    As a result, he was drafted in the third round by the Jets and was considered a steal.  After having a decent preseason, Ellis was expected to add some depth to what used to be a rather old and Jets defensive line, but could not stay healthy.

    Ellis' injuries kept him off the field for quite some time as he was only able to play in four games in 2011.  If he were healthy, Ellis might have made more of an impact, but thus far he has shown to be nothing but a bust.

Best Acquisition

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    The Jets added former Buffalo Bill "bust" Aaron Maybin going into the first week of the 2011 season.  He was expected to not have much of an impact on the Jets defense as his first two years in Buffalo as their 2009 first round pick did not go to well.

    Despite what most people said about him, Maybin thrived as a member of the New York Jets.  While his numbers are not staggering, considering he joined the Jets right before the start of the season and made an impact when he got his chance on the field is great for the future.

    In 2011, Maybin played in 12 games and recorded 9 tackles and 6 sacks.  Those stats may not seem very large, but because of Maybin's size, the Jets mainly use him as a pass rusher in obvious passing situations, and because of his speed and strength, he does well and gets to the quarterback.

    Now, imagine Maybin with a full preseason with the Jets coaching staff under his belt.  While it may have been questionable in September, the addition of Aaron Maybin will help the Jets for years to come. 

Worst Acquisition

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    During the short offseason following the lockout, one of the Jets free agency signings was Derrick Mason.  Coming in, Mason was expected to be Jericho Cotchery's replacement as the reliable slot receiver that could help Sanchez if he was in trouble.

    Following losses to teams like the Ravens, Raiders and Patriots, rumors began to fly regarding Mason and the other Jets receivers opinions of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.  Once the Jets realized it was Mason who was bringing the bad attitude into the locker room, they shipped him away to Houston for a conditional draft pick.

    The Jets have been know to add players late in their careers as a way to put a band-aid over issues on their team (i.e. Brett Favre in 2008, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylon in 2010); and it seems as if Mason never really wanted to be in New York, so this was a horrible move by Mike Tannenbaum and the crew in the Jets front office.

    For more on the whole Derrick Mason debacle that happened in October, go here.

Biggest Disappointment

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    When it comes to sports, there is usually the "next man up" mentality that teams follow so that when one player goes down due to injury or they choose to leave the team, there is someone to fill that slot.  At the end of the 2010 season, Wayne Hunter was the next man up at right tackle for Damien Woody who had a series of injuries during his final season as a professional football player. 

    Hunter's play was solid at the end of the season, as well in the playoffs.  This lead the Jets to believe that Hunter would be a suitable replacement following Woody's departure from football.  Because of that, they resigned him to a contract worth $13 million for 4 years once the lockout was over and named him the starting right tackle, prior to the start of the season.

    Prior to the season, I graded the re-signing of Hunter an A- in this slideshow.  Little did I know how poorly Hunter was going to play in 2011.

    Throughout the season, Hunter's blocking for Mark Sanchez or whoever was running the ball out was abysmal.  He could not keep his blocks, his footwork was off and he allowed way too much penetration. If the Jets want a solid offensive line that can perform the way people have grown accustomed to during Rex Ryans first two seasons as Jets head coach, then Hunter definitely needs to go back to being a bench player or to another team.  He just does not cut it as a starter.

Worst Player(s) of the Year

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    You may be wondering why the title of this slide says "Player(s)", well that is because we have a three way tie for the Jets worst player of the 2011 season.  

    First off, is right tackle Wayne Hunter who I spoke about in the last slide.  You can say that Hunter unlike most Jets was consistent in 2011, but not the kind of consistency you'd want on your football team.  His consistency was horrible blocking which never helped Mark Sanchez and the Jets.  For a player coming in after having a solid end in 2010, not only has Hunter been a disappointment, he has just been flat out atrocious.

    Next is safety Eric Smith.  Smith is the Jets free safety and for the last few years has skated by at the position, getting the job done as an average player.  But this year, he was exposed for the terrible player that he actually is. 

    With the way the Jets run their defense, in most cases covering tight ends is left up to Smith and the safeties.  The majority of the time, starter Jim Leonhard does a great job and maybe gets beat on 1 play a game, meanwhile Smith gets destroyed constantly.  His and the Jets failure to cover tight ends, especially the big ones was a major flaw during the 2011 season.  Just take Rob Gronkowski's performance in the Jets-Patriots Week 10 game when Gronkowski caught 8 passes for 113 yards with two touchdowns.  The Jets really need to take a hard look at their safety situation and address it over the offseason.

    The third and final worst player of the year is tight end Matthew Mulligan.  After the way he performed in 2011, I'm sure he is asking for a mulligan for this season.  While the third year tight end from Maine is not a starter or a staple in the Jets offense, his play negatively affected the Jets time and time again.

    Each and every game, the Jets like to use Mulligan as a blocking tight end, mainly because Dustin Keller does not have the body and skill-set to do so.  A lot of the time when Mulligan comes in, he gets called for some sort of penalty, whether it be for a false start, block in the back or like during Sunday's loss, illegal hands to the face, which pushes the team back 15-yards.

    While Mulligan does not cause trouble on the team with his mouth like some players, he does not help by constantly getting called for penalties.  Matthew Mulligan is simply one of those guys the Jets need to let go, before anymore harm is done.

Best Game of the Year

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    If you didn't guess it by the first slide of this review of the Jets season, then the best game of the season had to have been the victory over Dallas in Week 1.  As I said earlier, this victory meant much more than the Ryan brothers against one another or which team started 1-0.  This game had to with a team and a city's resiliency and bouncing back from adversity.

    The win by the Jets on September 11th was one of the better one in the last few years.  In order to come back, the Jets needed a collective effort in order to help one another out.  And unlike the rest of the season, this victory was not a result of one side of the ball doing what it was supposed to.

    Had Mike DeVito not have stripped the ball, Mark Sanchez would not have been able to drive down the field.  Had Joe McKnight not have blocked the field goal that Isiah Trufant returned, the Jets offense may have gotten the ball back, but would they have crumbled like they have done many times in 2011.

    It was the great effort by the team that made this a sweet victory for New York and Jets fans, and there is no better way to start off a season than the victory the Jets had against he Cowboys.

Best Player

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    The Jets linebacker was snubbed off a pro bowl appearance by Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and 

    Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs.  While those are two fine players to be making it into the pro bowl, keep the following in mind.  This season, Harris played in every game of the season (Lewis did not) and was the only player in the NFL to record 5 sacks and 4 interceptions this season.

    What really makes Harris the best player for the New York Jets in 2011 was his consistency.  Throughout the season, the Jets were a team that was inconsistent on both sides of the ball, but no matter what, they could always count on David Harris.  Harris is the kind of guy who plays day in and day out, doing what he is supposed to so that his team can win, and sometimes not getting the recognition he deserves.

    Harris finished the season leading the Jets in interceptions and tackles with 86 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 sacks and a touchdown.  He was truly the most consistent Jets players, and its a shame he was not recognized for being one of the best linebackers in the league by being voted to the Pro Bowl, no matter how much of a joke the game is.

    2011 was not the season the Jets and their fans hoped for, especially with the devastating collapse at the end.  Again, feel free to comment with questions or feedback below.

    For more on the 2011 season wrap-up, check out my slideshow on what to expect this offseason for the Jets here.

    And don't forget to follow me on twitter!