Who Wears the Crown: Identifying the Jets' Best Player at the Midseason Mark
Because of injuries to CB Darrelle Revis and WR Santonio Holmes, this list has a slightly different look than anyone could have expected entering this season.
That said, there are still plenty of Jets deserving of recognition.
Some have been staples of the Jets roster for the last several seasons, others are players that are new to the team or have blossomed early this season.
Ultimately it boils down to one question: Who wears the crown in New York?
#5: LaRon Landry, S
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The addition of LaRon Landry was crucial this off-season, particularly after All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending ACL injury.
Landry is currently tied with Yeremiah Bell and David Harris as the team leaders in individual tackles (37), and has a forced fumble, an interception and a defensive touchdown on the season.
Beyond his statistical contribution, Landry has helped solidify the team's secondary and catalyzed the return of the hard-hitting, smashmouth football attitude the defense desperately needed. He's been a vocal leader for the team and kept fans confident in the team's defensive unit.
#4: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LT
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With Pro-Bowl selections the past three seasons, the league has determined D'Brickashaw Ferguson is among the NFL's most elite offensive lineman.
Following a preseason riddled with questions about the team's offensive line, having a player of Ferguson's skill and experience is simply invaluable to the Jets passing and rushing attack.
Ferguson's presence on the field offers Mark Sanchez some certainty that his blind side will be protected. Additionally, Ferguson has no doubt helped accelerate the development of plug-in solution Austin Howard, who has exceeded everyone's expectations so far this season.
#3: Antonio Cromartie, CB
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Antonio Cromartie's stellar play in the secondary has been the most pleasant surprise for Jets fans so far in the 2012 season.
In the past, "Cro" has been a good, not great, one-on-one defender that showed flashes of brilliance just as often as he'd be seen getting beat deep.
Cromartie's strong season may be, in part, because of Darrelle Revis's absence rather than in spite of it. With Revis on the field, Cromartie was the weaker defender in the Jets secondary, and thus far more likely to be targeted.
Now opposite Kyle Wilson, Cromartie is the tougher match-up for opposing wide receivers and quarterbacks.
Tasked with handling the opposition's #1 receiver, Cromartie has performed extremely well, with three interceptions already, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Jets safety Yeremiah Bell told the Boston.com of Cromartie's transformation:
"You can tell he loves doing that, that he loves breaking down the film, trying to see teams, how they’re trying to attack and things like that. But I think especially since Reve went down, he’s probably watched a little bit more."
#2: David Harris, ILB
Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
With Revis out, it is clear David Harris is the best player on this Jets defense.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. Harris led the Jets in tackles every season from 2009 forward and is currently tied for the team lead in individual tackles.
His combined 57 tackles, 37 individual and 20 assisted, put him in the top 15 among NFL defenders.
While Rex Ryan may have done away with team captains for the 2012 campaign, it is clear "the hitman", as he's known in the Jets locker room, is the driving force behind the defense, and the unit's best player.
#1: Nick Mangold, C
Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE
Offensive lineman are, in general, the most underrated position on any football team. They often go unnoticed unless they don't perform well.
Nick Mangold is currently playing at the level that would suggest he'll be making his fifth straight Pro-Bowl appearance after this season.
Prior to their match-up against the Jets last week, reporters asked Patriots DT Vince WIlfork about facing Mangold.
Wilfork told the Boston Herald:
"(He’s) probably the best. I’ve been saying this since he was a rookie. He’s been pretty steady for them and it hasn’t changed . . . It seems like everything goes through him. The run game, he calls the plays on the line slides. He’s the guy in charge. That’s how it should be. That’s their bread and butter. If they’re running the ball it always seem to be behind (No.) 74."
Coming from a bitter division rival, that holds even more weight.
There was a bit of a scare earlier this season when the Jets center went down with an ankle injury against the Texans, but following his performance against the Pats, it's clear he's not only back for the rest of the season, but also the best Jet on the field.