5 New York Jets Starters Who Should Fear for Their Jobs in 2013
It may be only February, but the positional battle discussions have already started.
Some, like quarterback, are obvious, others, like nose tackle, might be more surprising. As Jets fans have gotten accustomed to, the lead up to the regular season will be full of depth-chart drama.
This was a difficult list to put together for the Jets because many of their 2012 starters are not yet under contract for next season, so it is difficult to know whether they'll even be with the team again. In compiling it, I made a point to try to only include players who stand a decent chance of returning to the team.
Mark Sanchez, QB
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By far, the player most fans expected to see on this list.
Mark Sanchez's struggles and the quarterback controversy in New York have been discussed to death. There is always going to be some intrigue, no matter the team, when it comes to starting quarterbacks in the NFL because of the position's on-field importance and off-the-field visibility.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan cast doubt on Sanchez's possession of the starting job in the future when he chose to play third-stringer Greg McElroy late in the season.
Sanchez's contract makes him the likely starter, but it certainly seems to be an open competition between him, McElroy and Tim Tebow/hypothetical draft selection/veteran free-agent acquisition.
The former fifth overall pick simply hasn't developed into the legitimate NFL starter the Jets were looking for in the draft four years ago.
His career NFL stats year-by-year:
His erratic, turnover-prone play and consistently mediocre completion percentage puts him in the hot seat.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN
Shonn Greene, RB
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Similar to Sanchez, Shonn Greene is another Jet who showed promise early in his career and hasn't quite lived up to the expectations that followed.
Greene has gone over 1,000 yards the past two seasons, but hasn't been the punishing ground-and-pound back who averaged five yards per carry on over 100 attempts behind Thomas Jones in 2009.
Second-year back Bilal Powell earned more carries this year and posted strong numbers. He averaged four YPC over 110 attempts without any fumbles. Greene had a comparable YPC (3.9) over his 276 attempts, but fumbled four times.
As the season wore on, Gang Green seemed more interested in developing Powell. From Week 11 on, Powell averaged 10.7 attempts per game to Greene's 17.4. Contrast that to the the first 10 weeks of play when Green averaged 17.1 attempts per game and Powell just five in the games he appeared in.
Greene has never been a great receiver out of the backfield. In the Jets "check-down" passing attack, he had 19 receptions for 150 yards. As the backup, Powell had 17 receptions for 140 yards.
If the Jets re-sign Greene, he will likely enter the season as the team's starter, but don't be surprised to see the team continue to move toward a split-back system.
Bart Scott, LB
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*Bart Scott's inclusion in this list is contingent on him and the Jets coming to a revised contract agreement. Otherwise, we can assume he will be cut.
Scott has become a shell of the intimidating, hard-hitting enforcer of the Jets defense. This is in part due to aging, but nagging injuries have taken their toll on the 32 year-old.
In his four years with the team, his tackling production has dropped off dramatically, going from 92 (67 individual, 25 assisted) in 2009 to 60 (36 solo, 24 assisted) in 2012.
In mid-December, Ben Shpigel of The New York Times had a great piece detailing Scott's contract status over the next two seasons. In the article, Scott says:
I understand they can’t pay me $7 million next year. I understand that. I accept that. My numbers and age don’t warrant that kind of money. If I was hoping to get that, I’d have to make an argument for it, and I don’t have the numbers, the game-changing plays, to do that.
A few days following the article in The Times, Seth Walder and Manish Mehta of the Daily News published an article indicating Scott may be willing to take a pay cut to remain a Jet.
If the two are able to reach an agreement that keeps Scott in green and white, his new beginning may mark his end as a starter. It was apparent throughout the season that the Jets were preparing rookie DeMario Davis to transition into the starter role next year.
Austin Howard, RT
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For a last-second, plug-in solution, Austin Howard played well in 2012.
That said, as this Jet Press article breaks down, he left something to be desired. Howard was a marked improvement over his predecessor Wayne Hunter, but for a team looking to develop young quarterbacks, Howard's pass-blocking isn't up to par.
In the article, they note that in the NFL ranking of tackles, Howard was tied for third in the NFL with 10.
Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy are both sack-prone quarterbacks to begin with. They both hold the ball for a long time and don't navigate a collapsing pocket very well. If the Jets are looking to cut down on sacks, the team might consider bringing in a rookie or free agent to challenge Howard for the starting right tackle role.
Sione Po'uha, NT
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In spite of signing a three-year, $15 million contract extension before last season, Sione Po'uha might be on the hot seat.
The career Jet's lackluster 2012 campaign might have opened the door for Kenrick Ellis to challenge him for a starting spot next season.
Po'uha's missed games aside, his production slowed in 2012.
In 2011, he appeared in every game, accumulating 58 tackles (41 solo, 17 assisted). This past season, he played in 12 games, missing four due to a back injury, and had just 29 tackles (20 solo, nine assisted). Additionally, he only had one pass deflected, down from three in 2010 and 2011.
In limited field time (appearing in 12 games, two starts), Ellis had 18 tackles (11 solo, seven assisted).
Po'uha remains the favorite to keep the starting job, but Ellis will likely see more field time next season.