New York Jets: Key Role Players Down the Stretch
With a win last week in St. Louis, the New York Jets managed to pump a little bit of life back into a season—coming off three straight losses—that seemed to be DOA. If the Jets can pull out a victory against archrival New England on Thanksgiving night, New York’s pulse will grow considerably stronger.
With a fairly easy schedule over the last five games that doesn’t feature an opponent above .500, the Jets could be poised for a magical run to the playoffs. Any such run, however, will have to come on the backs of a few key players.
WR Stephen Hill
Rookie WR Stephen Hill came into the season as a raw product that was expected to experience some growing pains.
Playing in the triple-option offense sported at Georgia Tech, the Jets knew they were getting a receiver who needed some polish. While some poor route running was to be expected, it’s the hands of stone that have proved to be his Achilles' heel.
Hill has had more than a few killer drops, the worst of these occurring in the waning moments of the Jets' trip to Foxboro. Had Hill held on, the Jets likely leave with a W. With a win against the Bills already in their pocket, another win at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night would have moved the Jets into first place in the division owning the tiebreaker with the Patriots.
Still, the rookie needs to spend every free moment he has with the jugs machine if the Jets are to make some noise. With such an impotent offense, it is time for Hill to live up to his draft status, put the drops behind him and start making significant impact plays for an offense in dire need of them.
DB Kyle Wilson
Wilson, who thus far in his career has played almost exclusively in the nickel against slot receivers, was forced to the outside when Darrelle Revis went down with an injury. Losing Revis, unquestionably the greatest corner on the planet, was a major blow to the Jets secondary.
A silver lining that has emerged has been the play of Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has answered the bell and turned out his best season in a green uniform, one that will likely have him heading to the Pro Bowl.
With Cromartie holding down his end of the bargain, Kyle Wilson will similarly need to raise the level of his own game if the Jets are to play meaningful games in December. While adequate, the former first-rounder has yet to hit his ceiling. While Wilson lacks great “make-up” speed, he possesses solid quickness and cover skills and will need to do more than simply hold down the fort.
TE Dustin Keller
Keller entered the season looking for a long-term extension. Well, he hasn’t exactly helped his chances of making this a reality.
Limited in the early parts of a season by a pulled hamstring that for many fans seemed to take an awfully long time to heal, Keller hasn’t had the impact that is expected of a player seeking a new contract. Toss in an atrocious outing in Seattle, one that Keller referred to as “the worst game that I played,” and it has been a down year for a once-promising player.
That said, Keller is undoubtedly QB Mark Sanchez’s favorite target and the player he has the most chemistry with. Keller and Sanchez need to work in tandem for the Jets to succeed. When you lack playmakers like the Jets offense does, you need the reliable, “move the chains,” type of guys—like Keller is—even more.
If the Jets are to turn their season around, Keller will need to put his woeful first half behind him and play like a guy deserving of a long-term commitment.
ILB David Harris
Largely thought by many Jets fans as perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league, Harris has been in decline over the last season-and-a-half. Harris’ career got off to a hot start and he quickly became a fan favorite due to his versatility and steady hand with which he led the defense.
However, in 2012, there have been too many instances when players have bounced off of tackles levied by Harris.
A clear-cut example of this occurred in the waning moments of the Seattle game when Golden Tate committed a cardinal sin. He left his feet and attempted to jump over another player, leaving him primed for a leveling by Harris. In years past, Tate would have been buried in the Seattle turf, but this time, he bounced off Harris, made the first down and effectively put the game on ice.
Harris managed to put out a strong showing in St. Louis and will hopefully serve as a return to his former level of play. Harris still possesses the skills to be a top-notch linebacker. For the Jets to once again become a feared team, Harris will need a full return to All-Pro form.
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