New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 8

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IOctober 27, 2012

New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 8

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    The New York Jets play what may be the most critical game of their 2012 season this Sunday when they face off against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.

    The Jets and Dolphins are both in prime position to compete for an AFC Wild Card berth, and the outcome of the season series could have a huge impact on that race. If the Jets can beat the Dolphins this week and clinch the tiebreak, they will have a commanding lead over their rivals.

    There is no love lost between these two teams to begin with, and the game should be as tight throughout as it was when the two clubs faced off on September. The Jets were lucky to escape that game with a win, and they will have to play better in this week's contest.

Mark Sanchez

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    Sanchez had a big game for the Jets last week in New England, and he will have to continue his strong play in order for the Jets to emerge successful.

    Like the Patriots, Miami is generally stout against the run, but susceptible to big plays in the passing game. The Jets' receivers can give Sanchez opportunities against the Dolphins' weak secondary. The Jets will likely aim to throw the ball down the field for the second consecutive week.

    Sanchez did a lot to affirm his status as the Jets' starting quarterback last week, and this offense is going to have to continue to lean on him in order for Gang Green to make a playoff push.

Jeremy Kerley

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    Kerley is coming off of a big game against the Patriots, a performance in which he established himself as the Jets' No. 1 wide receiver for the remainder of the year.

    Kerley clearly established rapport with Mark Sanchez last week, repeatedly getting open down the field in key situations. Kerley's quickness enables him to cut away from defenders at a moment's notice, so if he is on the same page as Sanchez, he becomes a very difficult cover on timing routes.

    The Jets did not target Kerley much in their Week 3 victory over the Dolphins, but the receiver had two huge catches, including a critical touchdown late in the game. Santonio Holmes was the dominant pass-catcher in that game, and it would not be a surprise to see Kerley assume that role.

Stephen Hill

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    It will be interesting to see how Hill responds to adversity this week on the heels of his crucial fourth-quarter drop against the Patriots.

    Hill said all the right things after last week's game, acknowledging the importance of his error, but not appearing crushed by the weight of it. But he is still a rookie, and his performance on the field this week will be telling.

    Hill actually looked much better last week than he had since Week 1, drawing respect from defensive backs and benefiting from the associated cushion. He struggled against the Dolphins in Week 3, so this game will also be a measure of his improvement over the past month.

Dustin Keller

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    It looks like Dustin Keller is finally back to full strength, and Mark Sanchez and the Jet offense are immediately reaping the benefits.

    Keller added another dimension to the Jets' passing game last week, running free over the middle of the field for much of the day and adding tight, critical catches for good measure. Keller has been Sanchez's favorite target for a while, and his effect on the embattled quarterback was certainly noticeable.

    The New York tight end has had big performances against the Dolphins in the past, and in what is expected to be a closely contested game, one or two big third-down conversions could make the difference.

Nick Mangold

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    Mangold is a source of leadership and stability for the Jets' offense, and his presence has helped the unit weather the volatile 2012 season thus far.

    The Jets received a scare two weeks ago when Mangold was temporarily sidelined against the Houston Texans, but he returned to that game and has not missed any action since. Mangold is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but it is expected that he will play.

    Mangold remains one of the most valuable offensive linemen in the NFL, and his ability to anchor the Jets' line against the talented Miami front seven could make the difference Sunday.

Muhammad Wilkerson

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    Wilkerson seems to be improving week and in week out this year, and he has become one of the most important players on the Jet defense.

    Wilkerson, one of the few recent first-round round draft picks to emerge as a consistent impact player for the Jet defense, is probably the best member of the Jets' front seven when it comes to threatening opposing offenses in both the pass and run games.

    The Jets' run defense struggled in Week 3 against Miami. Wilkerson will need to come up big to prevent that from happening again Sunday.

Quinton Coples

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    Coples has not developed the consistency of Wilkerson yet, but he is an explosive player who continues to become a bigger component of the Jets' defensive scheme.

    In recent weeks, Coples has given the Jets the pass-rushing threat out of their base defense that they had been sorely lacking for so long. His explosiveness has enabled the Jets to keep more people in coverage against Andrew Luck and Tom Brady.

    If the Jets can generate a consistent pass rush against Ryan Tannehill, they may be able to rattle him like they did in Week 3.

Demario Davis

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    The Jets appear to have promoted Davis to a starting role, and the speed he brings to their linebacking corps has added a critical element to their defense.

    New York has had experienced linebackers for years, but players like Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas are clearly on the downside of their careers and were getting exposed on outside runs. Davis improves the Jets in this area and in passing situations.

    Reggie Bush is exactly the kind of player the Jets need Davis to come up big against, so look for him to be in the spotlight Sunday.

Kyle Wilson

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    Kyle Wilson performed well against the Patriots, and he will have to come up big again this week against Miami, whose top two wide receivers are somewhat interchangeable.

    Antonio Cromartie will likely match up with Brian Hartline, leaving Wilson covering the speedy Davonne Bess. Players like Bess have given Wilson trouble in the past, so there is a chance he will be tested early Sunday.

    Wilson's improvement has been a big part of the Jets' ability to succeed on defense without Darrelle Revis. If he keeps up his level of play, the Jets can remain an elite defense.

Isaiah Trufant

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    Isaiah Trufant was a surprising every-down player last week, supplanting Ellis Lankster as the nickelback last week.

    Trufant played well last week, contributing to the team's solid overall defensive effort. Nickelback has been a position of need for the Jets since Revis' injury, so it will be a big gain for the team if Trufant emerges into a trustworthy option.

    The Dolphins will not spread the field as much as New England does, but nickelbacks are always important defensive personnel in today's NFL, and Trufant will see his fair share of snaps.