New York Jets' Playmakers Who Must Shine Against the New England Patriots
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith was good enough to lead the Jets to victory, showcasing a high degree of poise on the Jets' final possession, which ended in a game-winning field goal.
Smith rebounded nicely after struggling toward the end of the first half, committing two game-altering turnovers that allowed the Buccaneers to temporarily build a nine-point cushion on the scoreboard.
The rookie signal-caller will need significant help from certain playmakers on both sides of the football if the Jets are going to upend the Patriots in their home opener.
The following slideshow highlights five playmakers who must shine in Foxborough if the Jets are going to shock football pundits for consecutive weeks:
Kellen Winslow Jr. (TE)
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Veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. re-established himself as a formidable receiving threat in Week 1, despite battling nagging knee problems.
Winslow reeled in seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
He was targeted eight times and continuously found open space in the face of the revamped Buccaneers' secondary, which was ranked the worst in the NFL last season.
Smith needs a safety net on offense, especially if the run game remains stagnant.
Winslow might not be the same durable downfield target that recorded a whopping 82 catches and 1,106 receiving yards for the Browns in 2007, however, he's good enough to support an offense that lacks explosive playmaking ability.
Smith appears prone to pressure.
He connected on just 25 percent of his pass attempts when the Buccaneers blitzed at least five rushers, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York.
Winslow can help take some of the heat off of Smith if he can continue to work open space in the middle of the field.
The Jets need a premium effort from the former sixth overall pick on Thursday night to beat the Patriots.
Chris Ivory (RB)
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Could-be lead back Chris Ivory was massively unimpressive in his Jets' debut, rushing for just 15 yards on 10 carries.
Ivory was hampered by mediocre run protection on the offensive front, however, seldom finding room to run.
His longest run was just seven yards.
The Jets need a sufficient ground attack to help fuel the offense. Smith was the team's leading rusher in Week 1, gaining 47 yards on the ground.
At the moment, Bilal Powell is chalked atop the depth chart and will seemingly continue to receive the bulk of the work load.
Powell wasn't much better than Ivory against the Buccaneers' front seven. His number was called 12 times, but he failed to surpass 30 rushing yards.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg also used the Wildcat in attempt to spark the Jets' offense, however, results were less than marginal.
Ivory needs to establish himself as a point of attack for the Jets on offense to beat the Patriots in Week 2. New York can't completely lean on Smith for offensive production.
The rookie needs help from the Jets' backs, specifically Ivory, for the team to succeed.
Muhammad Wilkerson (DE)
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The key to beating the Patriots remains static: force pressure on Tom Brady.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is possibly the most underrated edge rusher in the NFL.
He's steadily developing into a prominent pass rusher, capable of wreaking havoc on quarterbacks on a frequent basis.
Head coach Rex Ryan has readopted a blitz-happy approach on defense, which aided the Jets in consecutive seasons where they reached the AFC title game.
Wilkerson needs to rattle Brady from a comfort standpoint. The future Hall of Fame QB is practically unbeatable when he's able to sit-back in the pocket and pick apart defenses.
The Jets' secondary is vulnerable, which became obvious when safety Dawan Landry whiffed on a tackle attempt during a huge third-down play late in the game against the Buccaneers that resulted in a 25-yard gain.
Landry's mishap almost cost the Jets a win.
The Patriots don't feature a solid core of receivers like they used to, especially in the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.
However, Brady is a prolific passer that can fit the ball into tight windows and make no-name wideouts look like star-studded playmakers.
Wilkerson anchors the Jets' blitz-heavy attack.
If he can pummel Brady in the pocket and force him to hear footsteps in the backfield, the Jets stand a solid chance of keeping the Patriots off the scoreboard and winning the game.
Santonio Holmes (WR)
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Former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes was a virtual non-factor in the Jets' Week 1 win.
The veteran receiver was on the field for just 44 offensive snaps as he continues to rehab a Grade 4 Lisfranc injury that forced him to miss most of the 2012 season.
Holmes needs to make his name heard under the bright lights against the Patriots on Thursday night.
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley has been listed on the Jets' injury report with a concussion after failing a concussion test on Monday.
Kerley was unfairly blasted by hard-hitting safety Dashon Goldson in the first half of the season opener. He was promptly sent to the locker room to be checked out by team physicians and later returned to the field.
Kerley totaled 56 receptions for 827 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout effort last season.
He's arguably the Jets' most reliable receiver. It remains unknown how long he'll be sidelined for, but it's unlikely that he'll be on the field against the Patriots.
Holmes furiously claims to be unable to cut upfield on passing routes like he was able to before suffering his foot injury. However, the Jets need production from their supposed No. 1 wideout to win in Week 2.
Holmes was targeted three times by Smith against the Buccaneers. He caught one pass for 13 yards up against cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Second-year player Stephen Hill had a career-high six catches in the Jets' season opening victory, however, someone needs to pick up the slack for Kerley on Thursday night.
Holmes ought to be that guy, especially considering his proven ability.
Geno Smith (QB)
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Rookie QB Geno Smith wasn't lights out against the Buccaneers in Week 1, but he was efficient enough to lead his team to a win in his first career start.
Smith completed 24 of 38 pass attempts for 256 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
He recorded mediocre 80.6 quarterback rating, but forced the Jets into the win column with an impressive last-ditch drive with just 34 seconds remaining in the game.
Smith is going to endure rookies mistakes, like the unnecessary 18-yard sack he took late in the first half as the Jets threatened to puts points on the scoreboard.
He also needs to work on ball security. The fumble he coughed up inside his own 10-yard line virtually handed the Buccaneers seven points.
Smith seems destined to steadily improve, though. He features dual threat ability out of the pocket, which he demonstrated on several instances in Week 1.
His ability to tuck the ball and run in order to gain positive yardage adds a new-found element that was formerly vacant from the Jets' offense.
The second-round pick likely can't win his second game in as many tries as a starting QB with a duplicate performance against the Patriots.
It goes without saying, however, Smith needs to make smart decisions with the football and keep potential game-changing mistakes to a minimum.
If he can continue to complete more than 63 percent of his attempts without turning the ball over, the Jets have a better than decent chance of winning in hostile territory.
Smith will stand under the bright lights on a national stage for the first time in his professional career on Thursday night. It's an opportunity to immediately make a statement as the Jets' new leader.