5 New York Jets Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2013
If the Jets are going to ascertain competitive standards in the wake of a dismal 2012 season, certain players need to rise to the occasion and make an unforeseen impact on an overhauled roster.
The biggest question mark relating to the Jets' mediocrity is embattled, second-rate quarterback Mark Sanchez. There's a distinct likelihood that the NFL turnover king could remain the Jets' signal-caller in 2013, although new-found competition from veteran David Garrard and rookie Geno Smith could end his embarrassing reign as the team's "offensive leader."
It's unknown how effective certain free-agent pickups, such as Antonio Garay and Antwan Barnes, will be after returning from injury-plagued seasons, but there are a few players on the Jets' current depth chart that stand a chance to have a huge impact from a positive standpoint.
The following slideshow outlines five players on the Jets' roster who are poised for breakout seasons in 2013.
Jeff Cumberland (TE)
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Tight end Jeff Cumberland appears destined to get a serious chance to prove himself as a starting-caliber talent in the NFL this season.
The departure of Dustin Keller seems detrimental from a playmaking standpoint.
However, Cumberland was modestly efficient at filling in as the team's starting tight end for a bulk of the 2012 season after Keller succumbed to injury.
Cumberland pulled down 29 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns in 12 starts for the Jets last season. His season-long effort provided a glimpse of what he's potentially capable of given the opportunity.
The Jets have opted not to sign a veteran tight end to virtually force Cumberland out of a starting job, indicating the brain trust has substantial faith in his abilities.
Cumberland is entering the prime of his career at 26 years old. He's been unofficially delegated the responsibilities of starting tight end for the Jets, barring a last-minute free-agent transaction.
Cumberland showcased the pass-catching ability necessary to be a successful player at his position in 2012 and should see an increased role this season.
Mike Goodson (RB)
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The Jets are desperate for game-changing speed. The ground-and-pound offensive mentality is dead in New York, replaced by new OC Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
Goodson won't be the feature back for the Jets this season, but he'll see an increased role, specifically as a third-down back and pass-catching receiver out of the backfield. He'll provide the team with a steady, athletic presence at tailback, which was absent from the offense over the past two seasons when Shonn Greene carried a bulk of the load.
Goodson rushed for 221 yards on 35 carries in 2012, good enough for a 6.3 yards-per-attempt average. He also reeled in 16 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown, showcasing dynamic ability to make plays on the ground and through the air.
The Jets needed a serious influx of speed to help ignite a stagnant offense this offseason. That was accomplished by acquiring Goodson.
Now, it's up to Goodson to make good on his end of the deal and quickly develop into a formidable scoring threat.
He's poised to be a solid complement to newly acquired RB Chris Ivory and has the potential for a breakout season.
Jeremy Kerley (WR)
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Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is the type of player who should excel in the Jets' new-look West Coast offense.
Kerley displayed steady improvement throughout the first two seasons of his pro career and should be ready for a breakout campaign in 2013.
He's often overlooked, but he has a serious opportunity to be a main contributor this season, given the Jets' glaring lack of talent at the wide receiver position.
Kerley racked up 56 receptions for 827 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore campaign, demonstrating sufficient athletic ability. He's been somewhat criticized for lacking speed, seldom gaining big-play separation, although he's capable of making tough catches.
It's entirely arguable that Kerley is the Jets' most consistent receiving target heading into the new season, given relative uncertainty surrounding Santonio Holmes and his ability to bounce back after missing most of last season with a Lisfranc injury.
Kerley needs to hold on to the football to solidify his standing as a perennial slot receiver in the NFL. He's fumbled seven times (including kick returns) in just 30 games as a pro, five of which were lost.
Kenrick Ellis (NT)
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Nose tackle Kenrick Ellis has fallen short of initial expectations, but should see an increase in playing time this season, considering that Sione Pouha is no longer in-house.
Ellis hasn't showcased a consistent ability to occupy the middle of the field in the trenches.
He's recorded 16 total tackles and a forced fumble in 17 games as a pro and has failed to develop into the player the Jets presumed he would become.
It remains unknown how useful veteran nose tackle Antonio Garay will be after missing eight games in 2012. Garay has suffered five season-ending injuries throughout his career, which means Ellis stands a significant chance to prove himself this season.
Can Ellis rise to the occasion to make his mark as a legitimate force on the defensive front in 2013?
Common wisdom would indicate that Ellis should be able to manhandle his opponents in the trenches at 346 pounds. He has the body frame and size necessary to be a beast at his position, but still needs to prove himself capable.
Quinton Coples (OLB/DE)
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Quinton Coples is poised to make a swift transition into a role as a pass-rushing linebacker in head coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 base defense.
Coples displayed a strong aptitude for crushing the quarterback toward the end of last season, exhibiting the ability to explode off of the edge from the point and in an upright stance.
He racked up 22 total tackles and 5.5 sacks as a rookie and has gained high praise from the Jets' current coaching staff.
Coples' commitment and athleticism will be tested in 2013. He was scarcely forced to drop back into coverage while playing the front in his rookie season, but he will be delegated some pass coverage responsibilities as a 3-4 OLB in his sophomore campaign.
If Coples is going to succeed at a new position, he can't slack off or over-value his abilities. The Jets are trusting him with a premier responsibility on defense: Get after the quarterback and do it often.
He flashed steady signs of advanced improvement in the second half of the 2012 season; however, a bulk of his best performances came against lackluster competition.
Coples ultimately has the skill set necessary to grow into an effective edge-rusher, but his work ethic is suspect.