New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 6
The Jets have lost two games in a row, but those two defeats have come at the hands of the Texans and 49ers, two teams considered to be among the NFL's elite. This week's game against the Colts may provide a better of barometer of where the Jets rank among the league's middle class.
The Jets and the Colts both have very easy second-half schedules, and with the weakened state of the AFC, this game could go a long way towards determining the outcome of the AFC wild-card race. If the Jets step up Sunday, they will be in a good position to make something of a season that many say is lost.
Mark Sanchez remains the Jets' starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. He is completing a low percentage of his passes, but he showed signs of life throwing the ball down the field last week and is still the Jets' offensive leader.
Tim Tebow will not get a lot of action as a traditional quarterback this week.
But the Jets opened up their playbook last week, and Tebow was a large part of that. Tebow gained a critical first down on a fake punt and nearly completed a long pass to Jason Hill.
There's no reason to expect the Jets' utilization of Tebow to change much this week. Rex Ryan should continue to coach aggressively, and the Jets will continue to view Tebow as a unique dimension of their team. It wouldn't be surprising to see a new wrinkle or two against the Colts.
Bilal Powell was last week's unsung hero, preventing a touchdown with a remarkable hustle play at the end of the first half.
It is very likely that the play gained Powell a lot of credibility in the Jets' locker room, as it was indicative of a player who never quits, The reality is that Powell was proving himself to be a better running back than Shonn Greene before making the hustle play.
Rex Ryan has said all the right things regarding Greene this week, but Powell seems to be the more explosive back right now. He should continue to get a lot of looks this week.
Stephen Hill is expected to return to the Jets' lineup this week, and he will provide the Jets with the deep threat they sorely need.
The Jets' stable of untested receivers proved that they have some potential last week, even if they were inconsistent. Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens showed that they can play possession roles when necessary.
Hill serves as the perfect complement to the New York receiving core. His struggles against press coverage have made him an inconsistent possession receiver himself, but his speed adds another dimension to the Jets' passing game.
For the third consecutive week, Dustin Keller is projected to return to action. His return would provide a tremendous uplift to the Jets' offense.
Keller has always been one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets, and at full strength, he becomes the Jets' go-to receiving option (perhaps alongside Jeremy Kerley). Keller is reliable and consistent—qualities that are often missing from the Jets' young receiving corps.
If Keller returns, look for the Jets to attack the middle of the field Sunday against Indianapolis. He will certainly immediately become a big part of Tony Sparano's game plan.
Even if Keller returns, Jeff Cumberland should still remain a big part of the Jets offense. He showed what he can do last week, catching the Jets' first touchdown, among several other well-run deep routes. His fourth-quarter drop was a critical mistake, but he remains one of the Jets' best pass-catching weapons.
Given how thin the Jets are at the wide receiver position, it makes a lot of sense to play Cumberland alongside Keller and threaten defenses with both the run and the pass. There are certainly several NFL blueprints for two-tight end systems right now.
If Keller once again cannot go at the last second, Cumberland's role obviously increases. But he should be a part of the Jets' passing offense regardless, and he may see even more favorable matchups with Keller on the field.
With both Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis unlikely to play this week, the Jets' reliable run-stopping defensive end will be asked to man the nose tackle position.
There is no reason to believe Mike DeVito is not up to the challenge. One of the more underrated players on the New York defense, DeVito has consistently provided above-average play against the run inside.
With all the injury-related turmoil facing the Jets defense, a reliable force like DeVito is always a welcome sight.
Quinton Coples saw more time against the Texans Monday night, and he performed relatively well. The Jets' 2012 first-round pick made a couple of big plays in the backfield to break up outside runs that otherwise would have gone for big gains against New York's overmatched linebackers.
This week, the focus for Coples should be on rushing the passer. The Colts do not have much of a running game, and opposing defenses have been able to get pressure on Andrew Luck.
Look for Coples to be lined up across from Indianapolis weak link Anthony Castonzo on key passing downs. If Coples and the Jets can rattle Luck, their day will become much easier.
The Jets' linebackers have not performed up to prior standards this season, and it falls to David Harris to take the lead in correcting this production.
Harris, the longtime leader of the Jets linebacking corps, has not seen too big of a drop in his own production, but he has not had too big of an impact on any individual game either. Given the rash of injuries and declining players who surround him, Harris needs to step up his game.
Josh Mauga, who played well in increased playing time against the Texans, suffered a season-ending injury, meaning Harris will once again start alongside the lagging Bart Scott. He will need to be on his game.
Antonio Cromartie has been asked to step up in Darrelle Revis' absence, and thus far, he has risen to the challenge.
The self-proclaimed best cornerback in football, Cromartie looked like it last week. He completely shut down Andre Johnson and added an interception of his own. He even almost added a deep reception on offense.
But Cromartie's problem has never been the ability to play spectacularly. He needs to show consistency, starting this week against Reggie Wayne.
Despite Darrelle Revis absence, the Jets' secondary remains one of the team's best units. Cromartie is certainly a big part of this, but LaRon Landry's impact cannot be ignored either.
Even taking into account Cromartie's ability to lock down his man, the Jets still experienced notable downgrades at the No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback slots. It falls upon Landry to put out the fires created by Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster.
Andrew Luck is an experienced rookie quarterback, but he is a rookie nonetheless. Look for Landry's play-making prowess to be on display this Sunday.