New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Break out in 2012

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJuly 4, 2012

New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Break out in 2012

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    The New York Jets struggled for the majority of last season, but the team still got a big boost from young players defying expectations. 

    Players like Aaron Maybin and Shonn Greene carried the team during stretches and kept the club above water.

    This season, the roster is loaded with talented youngsters that seem to be on the verge of breaking out. 

    These players are some of the most dynamic in the league and will be crucial to the Jets' success. 

Joe McKnight

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    After exploding onto the national scene as a return man last season, Joe McKnight is ready to take the next step as the team's backup and third-down running back. 

    The new role may be difficult for McKnight to adjust to at first, but once he is settled, he will be one of the most dangerous third-down runners in all of football.

    McKnight has blistering speed and unbelievable agility. He has the ability to sneak out of the backfield for screens, as well as block pass-rushers accordingly.

    With Tony Sparano as the new offensive coordinator, the Jets are expected to run the football more than ever.

    The new offensive identity will give McKnight more touches and allow the USC product to showcase his superb talent. 

Jeremy Kerley

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    Second-year man Jeremy Kerley has all the makings of a future star at the wide receiver position. 

    He is a dynamic athlete with superb speed and breakaway ability. He is especially lethal when lined up in the slot position. 

    The TCU product performed admirably in limited playing time last season, as he recorded 29 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown. 

    With no clear-cut No. 2 wideout, Kerley has the opportunity to start opposite Santonio Holmes if he performs up to his talent level during training camp.

    If he wins the starting job, expect Kerley to terrorize opposing secondaries all year long.  

Muhammad Wilkerson

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    Muhammad Wilkerson had a solid rookie season, but the 22-year-old is yet to even brush his full potential. 

    With a year of development, Wilkerson's game will have become more complete. 

    He will also benefit from the hiring of new defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar. Dunbar is a pass-rushing guru and his presence will certainly improve Wilkerson's game. 

    The additions of dynamic rookie Quinton Coples and a fully healthy Kenrick Ellis to New York's defensive line will also enhance Wilkerson's impact. 

    Coples and Ellis will attract more attention from opposing blockers, and therefore give room for Wilkerson to explode through the line of scrimmage. 

    All signs point to a breakout year for the Temple product. 

Matt Slauson

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    Matt Slauson has improved his game every year since his rookie season in 2009. 

    Even with a torn rotator cuff for much of last season, Slauson continued his upward trend. 

    The 26-year-old looks primed to continue his emergence this season, as he is fully healthy.

    The former sixth-round pick will also benefit from an all-around improved offensive line. 

    Both Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore are 100 percent after dealing with minor injuries last year, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson is determined to rebound from a subpar season.

    Slauson should break out in a big way in 2012.  

John Connor

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    John Connor became a fan favorite after having a main role in Hard Knocks a few season ago. 

    Fans adored Connor for his never-say-die attitude and his bone-shattering blocks.

    "Terminator" is a household name, but the young fullback has yet to make a major impact during the regular season in his brief career. 

    However, all signs point to Connor having a breakout season in 2012. 

    He will play a heavy role in New York's offensive game plan this season. New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano desires a powerful, fullback-heavy running attack. 

    As a result, expect Connor to be on the field for the majority of running plays this season, and expect him to emerge as one of the game's finest fullbacks.