New York Jets: 10 Players to Watch in Week 14
Coming off a brutal 7-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets actually find themselves in a much better position record-wise than most other tangible factors would indicate.
Despite an offense that is a total mess at the skill positions, key injuries on both sides of the ball, and a full-fledged quarterback controversy, the Jets sit at 5-7 with a very easy December schedule remaining. This is a testament to the value of strong line play in the NFL, though it has not done nothing to cover up the fact that the Jets have a lot of questions to answer at most other positions.
It is way too much to ask this inconsistent team to run the table in December and become relevant in the playoff race, but it would not be a huge surprise to see the Jets run the ball well in the coming month and finish their season strong.
After a terrible performance against Arizona where he was benched in the middle of the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez received what may be his last chance when Rex Ryan named him the starter for this week's game.
Sanchez displayed horrible decision-making last week, turning the ball over three times in the first half. Patrick Peterson should have had a fourth interception early in the third quarter, and New York didn't score a single point with Sanchez at the helm.
But what is so frustrating about Sanchez is that even last week he made several excellent, NFL-caliber throws. He is just horribly inconsistent. As a result, the offense struggles to complete drives.
It wouldn't be a shock to see him get his act together and guide the Jets through the next month, but it also wouldn't be a shock to see him on the bench by halftime.
All eyes will be on Greg McElroy this week, regardless of whether he is in the game or on the sidelines. The events of the past week have guaranteed that.
Sanchez will start the game, and if he plays well there is a strong chance that no other quarterback will see the field. Given that the Jets are playing the 2-10 Jaguars, there's a decent possibility that this happens.
But after every bad throw (or perceived bad throw, as sometimes the distinction between a bad throw and a miscommunication is not clear) or three-and-out, eyes and cameras will be on McElroy—and whether or not he is warming up.
As usual for the Jets this year, the backup quarterback will be the most popular player on the field.
The Jets gave Bilal Powell the first series of the game at running back, and it seemed to light a fire under Shonn Greene. Greene paced the Jets' offense in the second half, leading them to strong time of possession stats and an eventual victory.
As has often been the case in Greene's better games, he was more successful in the second half as the Cardinals' defense wore down. Greene has looked a bit sharper in recent weeks, hitting holes faster and picking up more yards after contact.
Like many of the Jets' skill players, Greene has failed to show consistency throughout the season. With Powell a candidate for the starting running back position, Greene needs to show some improvement in this area during the season's final month.
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With Dustin Keller sidelined by yet another injury, Jeff Cumberland will get another chance to show his considerable potential.
The Jets need to feature the tight end in their passing offense, as their receiving core is depleted and whatever quarterback is in the game needs some safe throws. Keller has not been healthy for much of the year, so Cumberland has had to fill that role.
Cumberland has performed well in his increased snaps, notably catching a long touchdown in the Monday night game against the Houston Texans. He needs to refine his talent and improve his consistency.
But if the Jets feel they cannot rely on Keller, Cumberland will remain a big part of the New York offense.
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While the Jets have had many problems on offense this season, line play hasn't really been one of them. The Jets' line hasn't been the best in the league as it used to be, but it has still been distinctly better than average.
Brandon Moore remains one of the key cogs on that line, especially when it comes to the all-important run game. He will be in an integral part of keeping the game manageable for whoever is playing quarterback at the time.
The Jets are going to run the ball a lot this week, and likely will do so for the rest of the season. Moore and the rest of the line may be the key to the Jets' offensive success.
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The Jets' defense completely shut down Arizona last week. While the horrible play of Ryan Lindley was a big factor, the Cardinals also couldn't get anything going on the ground.
The Jaguars have a more effective passing game than Arizona, but the Jets know Chad Henne's weaknesses and will able to contain him if Jacksonville becomes one-dimensional.
Mike DeVito, the Jets' ever-consistent defensive lineman, will be a big part of the run-stopping effort. If he can keep up his solid play, Gang Green will have an advantage when the Jaguars have the ball.
Muhammad Wilkerson's play continues to improve, and he is quickly emerging as one of the best two or three players on the Jets' roster.
The Jets have been looking for "two-way" front seven players who could perform well against both the run and the pass for years. Wilkerson seems to fit the bill.
He made life miserable for Ryan Lindley and the whole Arizona offense last week, and it would not be a big surprise to see him be similarly disruptive in Jacksonville.
Even when they lose, watching Wilkerson's development is a joy for most Jets' fans.
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David Harris has remained a reliable force for the New York defense, and he had a particularly strong game against Arizona.
With Cecil Shorts out for the Jaguars, Harris' role as policeman in the middle of the field will once again be critical. Harris will be tested by Jacksonville's willingness to throw down the middle of the field.
Harris remains a leader on a Jet defense that has been the team's best unit once again this season. They will be likely to have to lead the way again this week.
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Kyle Wilson has improved in recent weeks, particularly against the run game, but he still has not shown the necessary consistency to be a reliable starting cornerback.
This may partially be a case of Jet fans being spoiled as Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are both upper-echelon No. 1 corners. But Wilson has been beaten too often in one-on-one coverage.
Look for Henne to focus on trying to exploit Wilson, especially as it's likely that Cromartie will shut down the Jaguars' one remaining starting receiver in Justin Blackmon. Wilson will be going up against inferior talent, so it will be a bad sign if he looks overmatched.
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Yeremiah Bell has had a relatively quiet season, encompassing both a lack of big plays and an absence of crippling mistakes.
At the safety position, especially opposite a risk-taker like LaRon Landry, there's nothing wrong with Bell's production. His solid yet unspectacular play should be good enough to win the battle against the Jacksonville offense.
Like with Harris, Bell's responsibilities take on a bigger role this week as the Jets aim to lock down the middle of the field.