New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 7

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst IOctober 21, 2012

New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 7

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    After steadying their season with a Week 6 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Jets open their 2012 series with the New England Patriots in Foxboro this week.

    Nobody expects the Jets to win this game, and at 3-3 with a favorable stretch of games on the horizon, Gang Green to some extent is playing with "house money" this week. A win against the Pats would do wonders for this team, but at 3-4 with an easy schedule, the Jets would still be playoff contenders in a weak AFC.

    The challenges the Jets face will not be new to them: Pressuring Tom Brady, covering the Patriots' bevy of pass-catching threats and putting points on the board to counteract New England's eventual surge will all be priorities once again.

    The Jets have the pieces in place to get the job done, and the Patriots have shown some chinks in their armor this year, but New York will need to play a near-perfect game in order to win.

Mark Sanchez

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    The Pats will look to take away the Jets running game Sunday, and Bill Belichick's team usually excels at taking away what it's opponent does best. That means Sanchez will have to carry the Jets offense.

    Sanchez should have his opportunities, as the Patriots have one of the worst secondaries in the league. But this has been true for a few years, and the Jets have often been unable to put together good passing performances against the Pats in spite of this weakness.

    When the Jets have defeated the Pats recently (2011 playoffs, 2010 Week 2), Sanchez has performed well and made some big plays. He will need to reach that standard again in order for the Jets to spring the upset Sunday.

Shonn Greene

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    Even with the Patriots keying on the run, Greene will likely get his fair share of opportunities Sunday as the Jets look to shorten the game and keep Tom Brady off the field.

    Greene is coming off one of the best performances of his career in last week's rout of the Colts. He looked much sharper than he had in the season's first five games, and he will need to keep running downhill and gaining yards after contact if he is going to be successful Sunday.

    With Bilal Powell out of this week's game and Joe McKnight questionable, the New York backfield clearly belongs to Greene. If he can follow up on last week's performance, the Jets will have found their 2012 offensive identity.

Stephen Hill

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    Even with Greene's performance last week, it's hard to overlook the success the Pats have had at stopping the Jets run game in recent years. The Jets will need to throw the ball down the field to beat New England, and Hill remains one of the best weapons they have.

    While he wasn't targeted much against the Colts, as the Jets hardly threw the ball last week, Hill made a big touchdown catch early in the game. His big frame makes him a key target for Mark Sanchez on third down and in the red zone.

    Hill has struggled against press coverage this season, but the Patriots do not really have a cornerback who should be able to challenge him at the line.

    If Hill can get a free release, he will challenge the New England secondary as he did against Buffalo in Week 1.

Jeremy Kerley

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    Kerley likely remains the Jets' most reliable receiver, and he will be a big part of the Jets' plan of attack this week.

    Kerley is a very versatile offensive player, capable of lining up out wide or in the slot, able to secure catches both down the field and in key short-yardage situations. While he does not have the imposing physical presence of Hill, Kerley's quickness and ability to change direction make him a tough matchup.

    Expect Kerley, who also has the potential to swing a game's momentum on punt returns, to see a lot of targets this week as the Jets look for him to spring big plays.

Austin Howard

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    The Jets struggled to contain the Patriots pass rush last year, and rookie Chandler Jones leads a New England unit that could give Mark Sanchez trouble yet again.

    Howard is the key here, as the Patriots got a lot of quick pressure on Sanchez last year that prevented him from hitting his receivers down the field. If Howard can neutralize Jones, the Jets can increase Sanchez's options in the passing game.

    It is likely that Howard will have help in certain situations, but he will still need to perform well Sunday to maximize Mark Sanchez's opportunities to succeed.

Quinton Coples

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    When the Jets have fared their best against New England, they have pressured Tom Brady and made him uncomfortable in the pocket. But they also cannot afford to consistently blitz the Patriots, as once Brady knows what to expect from a defense, he becomes nearly impossible to stop.

    Enter Coples, who showed off his pass-rushing burst in last week's rout of the Colts.

    Taking away a foolish personal-foul penalty for grabbing Andrew Luck's facemask during one of his two sacks, Coples had an excellent game against Indianapolis.

    Coples showed last Sunday why the Jets used their first-round pick on him in April, as his considerable talent was on display. This week his consistency and conditioning will be in focus, as the Jets need him to counter Brady and the Pats' no-huddle offense.

David Harris

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    Most of the discussion out of Jets camp regarding New England's offense has focused on the need to stay organized despite a faster-paced environment.

    The majority of this responsibility falls to Harris, the signal-caller and de facto captain of the defense. Where he would normally have 25-30 seconds to relay a call and get the defense organized, Harris may have as few as 10 seconds on certain plays this Sunday.

    The Jets have claimed that referees are not letting New England's opponents substitute fairly, as the defense is required to have adequate time to substitute whenever the offense does. But the referees cannot be the focus on Sunday, and the Jets have to be prepared for whatever wrinkles come their way.

Kyle Wilson

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    Kyle Wilson has looked pretty good the last few weeks, mostly making the plays he has needed to without committing any glaring mistakes.

    But Wilson generally had it easy against the Texans and Colts, two teams with clear No. 1 receivers who chose to unsuccessfully challenge Antonio Cromartie. The Patriots, who love to spread the field and will attack any weakness they find, are not susceptible to this error.

    Wilson will not get much help this week, either, as the Jets will need to support their fifth and sixth defensive backs instead. He needs to have a strong game this week, or Gang Green will have difficulty slowing down Tom Brady.

Ellis Lankster

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    While Lankster should see more safety help than Wilson, he will be asked to substantially improve his performance under a pretty big microscope.

    If Lankster is truly the Jets nickelback, then he will be on the field almost every play against the Patriots, covering the likes of Julian Edelman for 60 minutes. This is a tall order for most cornerbacks and is certainly a challenge that Lankster is not used to.

    Lankster may be on a short leash Sunday, but whomever the Jets use in their nickel and dime packages will be crucial components of their defensive effort.

Antonio Allen

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    It is unclear exactly how the Jets will look to cover Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but Allen will likely feature in that effort.

    The little-used rookie saw more playing time last week as the Jets looked to neutralize the Indianapolis tight ends, and given the lack of height in New York's cornerback corps, the Jets will be forced to utilize their safeties against Gronkowski in particular.

    Allen took an early penalty last week but otherwise made no noteworthy mistakes against the Colts.

    This week will be a bigger test, and he should have some help, but Allen is an example of the kind of player from whom the Jets need to see a good performance on Sunday.