10 Players Most Responsible for the New York Jets' Success or Failure in 2012
After consecutive trips to the AFC Championship game, to not even qualifying for the playoffs in 2011, the New York Jets took a huge step backward last season.
Gone was their once-dominant rushing attack, which ranked first and fourth in the league in 2009 and 2010. Gone was their powerful defense, which ranked first and third in 2009 and 2010.
To get back to the successful formula that led them within a game of the Super Bowl twice, the Jets fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and replaced him with Tony Sparano, whose offensive scheme focuses more on the run.
To improve the running game even more, Tim Tebow was acquired through trade and a 239-lb running back, Terrance Ganaway, was drafted out of Baylor in the sixth round.
New faces to reinvigorate New York's defense include the oft-injured LaRon Landry, who when healthy is a top-five safety in the league, and pass-rusher/first-round pick Quinton Coples.
The Jets also added a possible replacement for Bart Scott in the third round, Demario Davis, along with two safeties, Josh Bush and Antonio Allen, in the later rounds of the draft.
While Coples will get the most playing time, Davis, Bush and Allen can all have significant roles due to Bart Scott's declining play and the lack of depth at the safety position.
Here are 10 players most responsible for the Jets' success or failure in 2012.
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While Mark Sanchez's completion percentage, passing yards, TD passes and QB rating all improved last season, he regressed as a QB.
He also lost some of his teammates' confidence (most notable Santonio Holmes) and his control of the locker room.
Under Tony Sparano's offense, Sanchez will pass less and his main goal will be to be a Trent Dilfer-like game manager who limits his turnovers.
Even though he is the better passer, this season will be his first where he is on a short leash with Tim Tebow behind him.
Sanchez needs to show some progress in his fourth season in the league.
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In a perfect scenario, Tim Tebow accepts his role as backup QB and is used in Wildcat formations, on special teams, in gadget plays and in goal-line situations.
If all goes well, Tebow will end up being the New York Jets' second-leading rusher while returning the running game into the league's most productive, as it was just three seasons ago.
This outcome is not far fetched. Last season with the Denver Broncos, Tebow was his team's second-leading rusher with 660 yards in 14 games. Denver led the league in rushing last season.
Hopefully Tebow's presence will have a positive effect on Mark Sanchez.
At least Sanchez won't have to worry about Tebow battling with him over girls, that will not happen. His spotlight, though? It has dimmed.
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Starting right tackle Wayne Hunter was a liability last season. He was a revolving door. He couldn't block a little girl. He stunk.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Hunter gave up 11 sacks, which was third worst for all offensive linemen.
However, his job at right tackle appears safe because no high draft pick was used on one and no free agents were pursued.
In fact, new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo endorsed him in a recent nj.com article, saying;
"I see many, many more great things, and I see the upside, I see the movement skills, the explosiveness. Those are the things I see on film," DeGuglielmo said. "How it all worked out? I don't know, but I know this much: the guy I have in that room right now, the guy that communicates with me is nothing like the guy -- I did a little research before I took this job -- nothing like the guy people explained that I would have. He is not introverted, he is not any of the things people say he is. He has a great personality, great energy, great desire and great skills. It looks like the makings of something great."
DeGuglielmo also went on to say that former second-round pick Vlad Ducasse ''is not a bust.''
Either I am crazy or he is crazy. Whatever the case, if Hunter is the starter for next season, he is going to have to perform a lot better if the Jets want to improve their running game and keep their QBs upright.
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Even though the New York Jets are not expected to throw a ton next season, Santonio Holmes is their No. 1 receiver and their lone veteran presence. He also has to repair his relationship with the team.
Holmes clearly has the skill to be a game-changer, as he is a former Super Bowl MVP.
Last season, he only had 51 receptions for 654 yards.
While his numbers may not improve, Holmes is going to have to accept his role in a run-heavy offense while helping rookie Stephen Hill and second-year receiver Jeremy Kerley find their way in the league.
That thought is scary, but for the offense to succeed, it's going to have to happen.
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According to ESPN.com, Stephen Hill was the third-best receiver in this year's draft. If this holds to be true, the New York Jets got a steal in the second round.
At 6'4'', 215 lbs, and a 4.3 40-yard dash time at the combine, Hill has the prototypical size and speed that the Jets were in desperate need of.
What makes Hill even more attractive is that he played at Georgia Tech, a run-heavy offense. This means he will already be comfortable not getting too many throws in the Jets offense.
Hill is also a good blocker already.
Because of his height and speed, Hill is going to be a legitimate deep-threat and red-zone target that opposing defenses are going to have to account for.
Hill will be the Jets' No. 2 receiver from day one and must produce immediately.
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Shonn Greene was disappointing last season. In his first season as the New York Jets' feature back, he only rushed for 1,054 yards and six TDs.
Greene surpassed the 100-yard mark in only two games during the season.
Next season he will get the majority of the carries again, even with Tim Tebow sharing the backfield.
Greene pulled a disappearing act too many times last year. He is going to have to be more of a factor next season if he still wants a future with the Jets and for the running game to return to form.
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It may be brazen to already think that Darrelle Revis is going to have a great season, but so be it. That turns the attention to Antonio Cromartie, the much-maligned corner opposite of Revis who is coming off a subpar season.
Cromartie put up numbers similar to second-year cornerback Kyle Wilson last year, while having more playing time.
Because of this, the New York Jets might even want to think about transitioning Wilson to supplant Cromartie as the starter since Wilson can actually tackle.
Regardless, the defense needs all three CBs playing at a high level since they lack depth at safety.
In fact, Cromartie can switch to a cover safety in some packages. Cromartie hinted at a switch, which likely will not happen.
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Hopefully 16th overall pick Quinton Coples can be the pass-rusher the Jets have been missing since John Abraham left in 2005.
While there was some criticism of the pick, since Coples is more of a 4-3 defensive end/tackle kind of player, which is what he played at North Carolina, and the Jets run a 3-4 scheme, ESPN.com had him ranked as the best defensive end in the draft.
Even if he doesn't look to be the perfect fit, the Jets are going to force it. Coples is already expected to start and line up next to last year's first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson.
The two even played together in 2007 at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
Without re-signing Aaron Maybin, at least not yet, Coples will be the only pass-rushing specialist on the Jets roster.
Wilkerson and Coples will be the anchors of the defensive line for years to come, starting next season.
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If Darrelle Revis is the most important defensive player for the New York Jets, linebacker David Harris is not far behind.
Since being drafted in 2007, Harris has quietly become a Pro Bowler and a defensive leader for the Jets.
In 2009 and 2010, Harris was New York's leading tackler. Last season he was their second-leading tackler.
Harris' numbers dropped a bit last season, so he's going to have to raise his game next season.
He is also going to have to show even more leadership qualities as the team possibly transitions from incumbent starter Bart Scott to rookie Demario Davis.
LaRon Landry and the Rookie Safeties
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With Jim Leonhard leaving in free agency and Eric Smith's less-than-stellar play, the New York Jets were left with a glaring need at the safety position.
After failing to land Reggie Nelson, the Jets signed former sixth overall pick LaRon Landry to a one-year deal.
It was a high-risk, high-reward move. At 6'0'' and 220 lbs, Landry is a physical force at safety known for highlight-reel tackles.
If healthy, Landry can make an impact for New York in its rush defense. The problem is he missed 15 games due to an Achilles tendon issue. He also opted not to fix the problem through surgery and rather tried alternative methods.
While Landry expects to be 100 percent, it remains to be seen.
In the draft, the Jets added two more safeties with sixth-round pick Josh Bush and seventh-round pick Antonio Allen.
Bush is more of a cover safety while Allen is more of a safety who plays closer to the line of scrimmage.
With the Jets' lack of depth at safety and Landry's injury history, both rookies are going to have to learn quickly and may get starting playing time quicker than they think.
If they fail to learn quickly, the Jets will be in trouble.