New York Jets: Which Newcomers Will Make Greatest Impacts in 2012?
Will they contend for the AFC East title like they did two years ago?
Will they fall out of playoff contention entirely?
Ultimately, the results of their 2012 season will be determined by a handful of newcomers who will have to contribute right away for this to be a successful year.
Fans should keep a close eye on seven men in particular as the season gets underway.
7. Tim Tebow
Ironically, while the Jets do not have a consensus quality starter at quarterback, they are the only team in the NFL with two playoff-winning QBs on the roster.
Tebow can affect the Jets this year in multiple ways. While there remains a slight chance he will become a full-time quarterback, that is unlikely this year. It is likely, however, that he will take at least some snaps at the quarterback position. More importantly, he will be getting snaps as a running back and out of the Wildcat.
Lastly, Tebow is expected to play on the punting unit. Don't be surprised to see him involved in at least one fake punt this year.
6. Yeremiah Bell
By snagging the 34-year-old veteran, the Jets hoped to fill the void at safety from 2011 and match up better against pass-catching tight ends.
Entering his 10th season in the NFL, this veteran defensive back was a Pro Bowler after the 2009 season, when he recorded 92 total tackles along with three interceptions and eight pass deflections. Not quite as athletic as LaRon Landry, Bell is a more reliable player and brings a valuable locker-room presence.
In an ideal world, both Bell and Landry will have productive seasons playing safety for the Jets in 2012. However, Bell is the safer bet of the two.
5. Chaz Schilens
This 6'4'' wide receiver—entering his fifth year in the NFL—was picked up by the Jets to add a veteran deep threat.
Since the loss of Braylon Edwards, the Jets have lacked a deep option. No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes is smaller and more of a route-runner.
This season, Schilens will potentially be the primary deep threat for the Jets, depending on how quickly rookie Stephen Hill can learn the new offensive system. Schilens has dealt with some minor injuries this offseason, but he should be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.
New York will likely be throwing more deep balls this season than they did last season, in large part because they threw hardly any last year. In fact, Sanchez ranked 33rd in the NFL in 40-plus-yard plays in 2011. By bringing in two more prototypical wide receivers, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets' management hope to rectify this problem.
Schilens still has some developing to do as a player. Nevertheless, anticipate seeing several deep balls thrown his way this season.
4. LaRon Landry
The New York Jets are well known for having the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Darrelle Revis is the far and away best individual corner in the league. Antonio Cromartie is the best No. 2 cornerback and Kyle Wilson is arguably the best No. 3 and slot corner.
However, the safety situation is a different story. Former starting safety Jim Leonhard—though loved by the fans—is old and injury-prone and was not re-signed. Free safety Eric Smith—for his part—had an atrocious 2011 season.
LaRon Landry was brought in to shore up the weak half of the Jets secondary. He is a high-risk player with a very high ceiling. Having racked up more than 80 tackles in three of his five seasons with the Washington Redskins, he is known as a talented safety and an extremely hard hitter.
He already intercepted Eli manning and leveled Victor Cruz in his second preseason game. The Jets were able to pick up Landry cheap due to a lingering injury to his Achilles' tendon.
The threat of re-injury is still there. However, if Landry can stay healthy and complete the deadliest secondary in the NFL, he may turn out to be one of the biggest free-agent steals of the offseason.
3. Stephen Hill
New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill has the potential to be one of the most exciting rookies of 2012.
With his speed, height and athleticism (6'4'', 4.36 in the 40-yard dash), he has the raw physical assets to be as good someday as any wide receiver in the NFL.
Hill's most eye-popping moment so far was his juggling catch over Darrelle Revis.
Hill still has a lot to learn about the pro game. However, as Mark Sanchez's primary or secondary deep threat, Hill will be the target of a lot of passes this season. If he can reel them in, he may be one of the Jets' most dangerous scoring threats right out of the gate.
2. Tony Sparano
One of the most important additions to the 2012 New York Jets is Tony Sparano.
Fans of the Jets should be excited about the potential for Sparano to serve as a locker-room leader. He has experience as an offensive line coach and hopefully will be able to improve the weakest part of the Jets offense.
More importantly, he has a reputation for commanding respect from his players, something Brian Schottenheimer was unable to do as a coach for the Jets.
As a head coach, Sparano received a great deal of criticism himself. However, his resume as a coach is solid. His head-coaching career began successfully in 2008 when he transformed the Miami Dolphins from a 1-15 last-place team to an 11-5 division winner in an all-time NFL record turnaround that earned him USA Today Coach of the Year honors.
Everyone knows the Jets have a killer defense. If they can put out a mediocre product on offense, they are a solid playoff team. Tony Sparano's job is to turn the appalling product of 2011 into a mediocre—or even good—product in 2012.
1. Quinton Coples
He recorded three tackles for losses, one sack, one forced fumble, one batted pass and two quarterback pressures. He was all over the field and was the most impactful defensive player in the game.
Seen as somewhat of an enigma to many analysts before the draft, the defensive end out of North Carolina fell all the way to the Jets as the 16th pick in the draft. Nevertheless, he may have been one of the top defensive talents available this year.
Already being compared by some to Jason Pierre-Paul, the Jets' rookie star looks likely to be an immediate game-changing player in Week 1 of the regular season. If he plays to his potential, the Jets defensive line in 2012 may turn out to be their best one since the "New York Sack Exchange" of 1982.
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