New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 10
If the Jets can upset the Seahawks, they will sit at 4-5 with a very soft schedule ahead of them. Gang Green would have to play more consistent football than it has so far this season, but the Jets would be in position to make a playoff run in the weak AFC.
If the Jets lose, however, a 3-6 record will almost certainly be too much to overcome, and the cries for a total rebuild will only get louder.
The Jets will face an uphill battle Sunday, as their struggling offense goes up against a top-flight Seattle defense that performs even better at home. New York can keep this game close, but these 10 players will have to excel for the Jets to steal a victory.
1. Mark Sanchez
It wasn't all Sanchez's fault that the Jets dug themselves a deep hole, and his pass protection didn't do him any favors, either. But it was the kind of day where New York needed its quarterback to step up and lead the way, and Mark wasn't up to the challenge in a key division game.
Sanchez and the Jets' offense find themselves in another adverse environment Sunday, and once again the Jets' quarterback will be asked to lead. If he comes up short, the calls for Tim Tebow will only increase.
2. Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow remains nothing other than the Jets' backup quarterback at this point, and his role has seemingly decreased throughout the season. But Jets coaches indicated that he may see more snaps this week, coming off the bye.
Integrating Tebow intelligently into the offense as a running threat makes a ton of sense, especially given the Jets' inconsistencies running the ball. Anything the Jets can do to make the Seattle defense a little less comfortable might be crucial Sunday.
The "Tebow as punt protector" formation that has resulted in three successful fake punts this season also hit its first hiccup against Miami, as the Dolphins blocked a punt and ran it in for a touchdown. Neither Tebow nor Mike Westhoff could have been too pleased with that result, and the Jets can't afford to lose the special-teams' battle against the Seahawks.
3. Shonn Greene
Somewhat overlooked during all of the discussions regarding Mark Sanchez has been the Jets' inability to establish a consistent running game in 2012.
The Jets still believe in their "ground and pound" identity, and running the ball and maintaining balance is critical to their ability to open up passing lines and give Sanchez adequate time to go through his progressions. When the Jets can't run, they pretty soon discover that they can no longer pass.
Sunday in Seattle will be no different, as the Seahawks are ready to pin their ears back and go after Sanchez all day. Shonn Greene needs to have a good day to slow down the Seahawks and quiet their crowd.
4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson
The Jets' offensive line did not have a good day against Miami. It will need to improve its performance and play more consistently during the second half of the season.
Sunday's game is not an easy place to start. The focus will be on pass protection against Seattle. D'Brickashaw Ferguson needs to play like a Pro Bowler in that phase of the game to give Mark Sanchez time to attack the Seahawks' defense.
Ferguson is usually a reliable player, so it is important that he plays a leadership role Sunday and allows his quarterback to gain a rhythm.
5. Austin Howard
It's all-hands-on-deck in pass protection Sunday, and a journeyman like Austin Howard is just as important as a star like Ferguson.
Howard has had his good and bad moments, but there have generally been too many occasions where Mark Sanchez feels rushed. The Seahawks will inevitably break through a few times Sunday, but Howard needs to make sure Sanchez has a pocket on most plays.
It won't be easy for Howard, who is still learning and will likely see some new looks in Seattle. But if he can step up, the Jets can hang with the Seahawks.
6. Mike DeVito
Marshawn Lynch remains the key to the Seahawks' offensive engine. If the Jets can prevent Lynch from getting going, Russell Wilson's life will become much more difficult.
With Sione Pouha questionable and Kenrick Ellis out, Mike DeVito's role as an inside stopper becomes magnified. Even if Pouha is able to start and plays most snaps, DeVito will still be expected to provide his normal run-stopping effect.
The Jets have allowed opposing running backs too much running room too often this season, and the Seahawks will look to exploit this weakness. It falls on DeVito to disrupt Seattle's game plan early and often.
7. Muhammad Wilkerson
Mike DeVito alone can't fully suppress the Seahawks' rushing attack. Given the Jets' weakness at the edges this season, Seattle will likely also look to run outside.
The Jets' second-level defenders have been a step behind this season, so it falls in the defensive line to prevent rushers from turning the corner with speed. Wilkerson has shown promise in this area, and he will need to continue his solid sophomore season this Sunday.
If the Jets do have success stopping the run, Wilkerson will be able to start chasing Russell Wilson. If he can get in the Seattle quarterback's face, the Jets' defense may have a pretty good day.
8. David Harris
David Harris remains one of the Jets' best tacklers and all-around defenders, and both of those skills will need to be on display Sunday.
Marshawn Lynch is not an easy back to bring down, and the Jets have not been the most sound tackling team this season. This is not the best combination for Gang Green, so it falls to veterans like Harris to utilize proper technique and prevent Lynch from extending plays and breaking off large gains.
Harris also remains the Jets' defensive leader. He will be expected to keep the unit on an even keel in a difficult environment. It is unlikely that the New York offense will go 60 minutes without making a mistake in Seattle, so the defense may need to pick it up.
9. LaRon Landry
Russell Wilson has had flashes of brilliance in his first NFL season, but he has also had moments where he reminds everyone that he is a rookie.
LaRon Landry has established himself as one of the craftier safeties in the league, displaying great closing speed on pass plays. Wilson likes to take shots down the field but does not have a particularly strong arm.
Landry made Ryan Tannehill look bad in Week 3, baiting him and returning an interception for an easy New York touchdown. Look for him to try to jump a few of Wilson's passes as well.
10. Yeremiah Bell
The Jets' corners stack up well against the Seattle receivers, so when the Seahawks have the ball, it is likely that much of the battle will take place over the middle of the field.
Enter Yeremiah Bell, who despite not making many highlight plays has had a solid first half of the season. This game plays to Bell's strengths, as he is capable of being the eighth man in the box and of covering bigger tight ends.
This is likely to be a tough, hard-hitting game, and every extra body the Jets can get to counter a player like Marshawn Lynch will be important. It's all the better when that extra body is a seasoned veteran with Bell's history of NFL success.