New York Jets: 4 Non-Superstars Who Must Step Up This Offseason

Amy StreiferCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2012

New York Jets: 4 Non-Superstars Who Must Step Up This Offseason

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    Just because a player isn't considered a superstar doesn't mean that they're not capable of making a superstar-type impact.

    The New York Jets failed to make the playoffs this past season, and in order to do better during the 2012-2013 season, the fringe players must also contribute.

    Mark Sanchez, Bart Scott and Darrelle Revis are just a few stand-out players that need to step up next season, but which non-superstars need to really play well and show the Jets their worth? Here's a few.

Joe McKnight

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    Joe McKnight has only played in the NFL for two years, but now that running back LaDainian Tomlinson has retired, McKnight will be given more playing time.

    Shonn Greene will be the starting running back for the Jets in 2012, but what happens if and when Greene is sidelined?

    McKnight will need to step up.

    Last season, McKnight had 43 rushing attempts with 134 yards in 15 games played. He averaged only 3.1 yards per carry after averaging 4.8 in 2010.

    The former USC player will need to score his first touchdown this upcoming season and prove that he can be a starting running back in the near future.

    McKnight can work well as a slot receiver, but he needs to be quicker to the ball and improve his pass protection.

    Running back is one of the positions on the Jets roster that needs to be filled with legitimate, strong, healthy players. If McKnight wants to help his team out this season, he will need to improve on all levels.

Wayne Hunter

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    Offensive tackle Wayne Hunter didn't have the best season of his career in 2011.

    In May, he told Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger that he was the "weakest link" last season and plans to play like a nine-year veteran in 2012.

    Hunter filled in for Damien Woody in 2010 after Woody suffered a partial tear of his MCL. He needs to play better this upcoming season, without a doubt.

    With Mark Sanchez and now Tim Tebow playing quarterback for the Jets, the offensive line will need to be ready to play tough and give their quarterback more time to make a pass, their running backs more room to explode and their wide receivers more time to get open. 

    At right tackle last season, Hunter gave up 8.5 sacks and committed 11 penalties. Both of these numbers aren't good at all, and he must avoid sacks and penalties at all costs if he wants his team to do well next season.

Stephen Hill

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    Stephen Hill was picked by the Jets in the second round of the 2012  NFL draft. He will be used as a receiver in the Jets offense.

    At 6'4" and 215 pounds, he should be a good addition to the roster. Hill is as athletic as they come. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He will give the Jets more speed and agility that they need.

    Hill is a former Georgie Tech wide receiver, and despite making only 49 catches, he did manage to average 25.5 yards per catch.

    What does that say about this guy?

    He can run—and he can run fast. Hill can position himself on the field in order to make himself available for receptions. 

    "When you evaluate him on tape, he’s probably going to get the highest grade possible as a blocker," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock (via Yahoo! Sports). "Then you look at him: height, weight and speed [he’ll have the] highest grade possible. Then you go hands — a little inconsistent at times, but still you can see that he’s a natural hands catcher."

    We'll just have to wait and see what Hill can accomplish in the NFL.

    However, if he can provide a positive contribution to the roster, Sanchez will find himself with another wide receiver that's capable of running the distance to make big plays.

Kenrick Ellis

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    It's no secret that the Jets' rush defense struggled last season, and they'll need to do better this year if they want any hope of making the playoffs.

    Kenrick Ellis is one of the players that can make an impact this year as a nose tackle, but at this point, it's not even clear how much playing time he will get.

    Ellis reported to a Virginia prison in mid-June in order to start a 45-day sentence after pleading guilty to assault and battery in a 2010 bar fight. Ellis is expected to miss some of training camp, but when he returns, he will want to be more effective on the field.

    In his rookie season, Ellis didn't do much for the Jets. He only had seven tackles, five of which were unassisted. With the Jets ranked 13th in rush defense last season, Ellis and his teammates will need to figure out a way to be more consistent and improve. 

    Ellis may not be a Sanchez, a Tebow or a Revis, but he is one of the players this year that could make a sincere impact if he steps up his game.