Where These 7 New York Jets Stars Must Improve in 2013
Even the most realistic New York Jets fan realizes the team needs a ton of work in the offseason.
There are holes to fill all over the roster, the salary cap needs to be straightened out, a new general manager needs to be broken in and the team will be working with practically an entirely new coaching staff in 2013.
One of the things that hasn't been discussed much in the Jets' reclamation project is that the current players on the roster need to continue growing as well.
Even in a down year like 2012, players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Jeremy Kerley and Antonio Cromartie took big steps forward in their production with each recording their best season as a Jet.
The Jets could add all the help they want in the offseason, but if the players on the current roster don't continue to grow, it's not going to matter much.
Nobody knows for sure who will or who won't be on the roster for the 2013 season, so this slideshow only considered players under contract for next season.
It's entirely possible that some of these players could be cut, traded or benched, but for the sake of this slideshow, we're going to assume that they are all around.
Here's a look at seven key Jets and what they need to improve on for next year.
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Quinton Coples: Take the Next Step
After a slow start to the 2012 season, Quinton Coples showed flashes of a potential dominant future in the NFL.
Coples led the Jets with 5.5 sacks despite playing just 47 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
What gives Jets fans the most hope is that Coples played his best ball down the stretch, recording 3.5 sacks and seven of his 22 solo tackles over the final four games of the season.
Coples' progression is nearly the exact same trajectory Muhammad Wilkerson took as a rookie, as Wilkerson recorded two of his three sacks and 15 of his 35 solo tackles over his final four games of 2011.
Now, it's up to Coples to continue that path and take the huge leap that Wilkerson did in his sophomore year.
For much of his rookie year, Coples relied heavily on his freakish athletic ability to make plays in the backfield.
To become the complete player that Wilkerson now is, Coples is going to have to improve his conditioning and also improve his production as a run defender.
Stephen Hill: Catch the Ball
Stephen Hill can have all the physical talent in the world, but if he can't catch the ball, he's useless as a wide receiver.
Hill was charged with five dropped passes in 2012 while playing just 38 percent of the team's offensive snaps.
If that number was prorated to cover Hill playing 75 percent of the team's snaps, he would have challenged Demaryius Thomas for the AFC lead with 10 drops.
Those five drops are only blatant drops and do not take into account the difficult plays that Hill missed that good NFL receivers would have made.
Hill's most blatant drop (a short pass near the goal line that could have sealed a win against the Patriots) could even be seen as the turning point that sent the Jets' season spiraling downward.
As unreliable as Hill was as a rookie, though, he is not a lost cause.
The NFL is littered with case studies of rookie receivers struggling with the adjustment to the pros only to develop into stars, so there is hope for Hill.
Hill has his work cut out for him in 2013 as he tries to learn Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
However, Mornhinweg's offense historically has resulted in big numbers for wide receivers. If Hill can stay healthy, learn the offense and catch the balls thrown his way, he could live up to the potential that had most people lauding the Jets' selection of Hill in the 2012 NFL draft.
Muhammad Wilkerson: Get to the Quarterback
Simply put, Muhammad Wilkerson has the potential to be the best Jets defensive lineman since Joe Klecko.
After a promising rookie season in 2011, Wilkerson made a huge leap in 2012 to become one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL.
If there is one aspect of Wilkerson's game that has been a little slower to develop than others, it's his ability to sack the quarterback.
Through the first 25 games of his career, Wilkerson had just four sacks before coming on a bit in that department in the second half of his sophomore campaign.
Wilkerson had four sacks over the final seven games of the 2012 season and needs to continue that momentum in 2013.
It's really nitpicking to complain about anything in Wilkerson's 2012 season, but if there is one area he can improve on, it's getting to the quarterback regularly.
Kyle Wilson: Grow Up
Kyle Wilson actually gets a bad rap with Jets fans.
He struggled mightily his first two seasons after looking like a steal in the 2010 NFL draft but took a step forward in 2012.
Wilson's biggest Achilles' heel is his deep coverage, and he certainly has to work on that, but he is actually a very active and capable defensive back within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Wilson is far from flawless, but he did start 15 games at cornerback for the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL. He also registered 41 tackles in 2012, good for fourth on the team.
The thing that seems to anger most Jets fans about Wilson is the constant showboating at inopportune times.
One of Wilson's favorite moves is to wag his finger as if he did something special when a quarterback overthrows an open receiver he was supposed to be covering.
Jets fans have been spoiled watching Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie work their magic over the past few seasons.
Wilson may never be an elite NFL corner, but he has shown ability to hold his own on a good defense.
One thing Wilson could take from Revis and Cromartie, though, is their professionalism.
Revis is perhaps one of the most understated and least demonstrative superstars in the game, and he has been a positive influence on Cromartie in that area as well.
Wilson has trained with Revis in the offseason in the past, and now it's time for him to pick up Revis' mannerisms on the field.
Demario Davis: Make an Impact
With Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas all likely to be off the Jets' roster sooner rather than later, Demario Davis is going to have a huge opportunity to become a major factor on the Jets defense in 2013.
Davis' overall speed will be a welcome addition to a linebacker unit that plodded it's way through 2012, and when he is playing next to David Harris, it should look like Davis is playing at warp speed.
One of the surprising stats from Davis' rookie season was that he actually played 309 snaps, or 29 percent of all defensive plays.
The reason that is so hard to believe is because aside from one fumble recovery, Davis didn't really have any kind of impact to let you know he was out there.
With a tremendous athlete like Davis playing a high-profile position like middle linebacker, you'd expect something big to happen almost by accident.
Davis had 22 solo tackles in 2012, a total that includes a number of special teams tackles as well.
Davis really never got a consistent chance to prove himself, so it would be wrong to rip him for his rookie season, especially after making the jump to the NFL from a small school.
However, he needs to show better instincts on the field to become the kind of impact player that his physical ability predicts he will be.
Santonio Holmes: Be a Leader
Santonio Holmes' actual game doesn't need much refining, as he is clearly the best playmaker on the Jets.
For as good a season as Jeremy Kerley had, he simply does not make the difficult catches the way Holmes does.
The best thing the Jets could do with their wide receiver corps is bring in a veteran No. 1 through free agency or trade, re-sign Braylon Edwards and take a chance on another young receiver in the early-to-middle rounds of the draft.
If the Jets go into the season with Holmes, Edwards, Kerley, Stephen Hill and another veteran, the Jets' weakest position could become one of its strengths under the direction of Marty Mornhinweg.
If the Jets' depth chart looks like that in 2013, Holmes is going to have to be the leader in the group.
The receivers will all be learning a vastly different offensive system under Mornhinweg, and players like Kerley and Hill are going to need all the help they can get.
Holmes is going to be in his fourth season as a Jet in 2013 and will be 29 on opening day.
He did a good job to mend fences with Mark Sanchez during last offseason, and he needs to take things one step further with his fellow receivers in 2013.
Rex Ryan named him a captain in an ill-fated move for the 2011 season. It's time for Holmes to act like the leader Ryan thought he'd turn into at that point.
Mark Sanchez: Take Care of the Football
Whether or not Mark Sanchez is the Jets starting quarterback in 2013 is a debate left for another article. If he is behind center in 2013, there are a number of areas in which he needs to improve.
One blanket statement we can make that's quite obvious is that Sanchez needs to take care of the football.
Not only did he throw 18 interceptions in 2012, but he also fumbled 14 times. The only other quarterback in Jets history to fumble as many as 14 times in a season was Ken O'Brien, who did so in 1985 when he was sacked a ridiculous 62 times.
Sanchez's utter disregard for the football also reached over into the completion percentage column. While he didn't have any kind of support system around him, there were still way too many times when he just heaved the football into the secondary behind nothing but a prayer.
If Sanchez is the starter in 2013, taking care of the ball will be priority No. 1.
With Sanchez playing in Marty Mornhinweg's system, he could set a personal best in pass attempts. If Sanchez is going to be throwing the ball that many times, he better find a way to get it into the right hands and hang onto the ball when he is sacked.