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Grading Every New York Jets Starter's 2013 Regular Season

Ryan AlfieriCorrespondent IIIDecember 30, 2013

Grading Every New York Jets Starter's 2013 Regular Season

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    As the owners of the most miraculous 8-8 record in the league, the time is now for the New York Jets to evaluate the season and continue their rebuilding process to be more competitive in 2014. 

    Despite missing the playoffs, the Jets accomplished a lot this season in terms of developing young talent and weeding out the veterans who are not built to last much longer.

    The real work for the Jets begins now, as they prepare for an offseason that will set them up for what they hope will be perennial success.

    Here are the roster grades for all of the starters following the conclusion of the season, which are based on a combination of expectations and production.

Quarterback

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    Geno Smith: B

    No one was sure what exactly to expect from the Jets' second-round rookie prior to the start of the season. 

    Considering that many wrote him off after a few poor showings in the preseason, the 2013 season has to be considered a success for Geno Smith. 

    After a fast start to the season in which he was responsible for a handful of comeback victories to keep the Jets in the thick of the playoff race, injuries to receivers and poor pass protection led to a terrible five-game stretch that would ultimately cost the Jets a chance to go to the playoffs. 

    Smith showed a lot in terms of arm talent and mental toughness, both of which are incredibly important traits in a quarterback.

    However, if Smith wants to remain on as the starter in 2014, he will need to show that he is capable of adapting to a imperfect environment around him. The Jets did not have the supporting cast their rookie quarterback needed, but Smith needs to show that he can elevate the play of his teammates, not contribute to their mistakes. 

    As strong as he finished with two straight wins to close the season, the Jets need to be careful to evaluate Smith's season as a whole and whether or not he can sustain the success he had late in the season.

    Despite the high turnover number and up-and-down nature of his play, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about Smith in the future.

Running Backs

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    Chris Ivory: B+

    It took Chris Ivory a little while to get going, as he dealt with nagging hamstring injuries that keep him out of the starting lineup for the first few weeks of the season. 

    Ivory eventually was able to show why the Jets traded for him, running as hard as any other runner in the league on his way to a 814-yard campaign in which he averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

    More importantly, Ivory was able to finish the season in relatively good health, helping erase some of the concerns that surrounded him when he was buried on the New Orleans Saints' depth chart.

     

    Bilal Powell: B

    Ivory's inevitable emergence would limit Powell's impact in the backfield, but it is easy to forget how strong of a start he had, holding off Ivory for the starting job until Ivory finally wrestled it away from him by midseason. He finished the season averaging 4.0 yards per carry on 155 attempts. 

    Powell, however, was at least as valuable in the passing game, excelling in pass protection and catching passes out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers

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    Santonio Holmes: D

    With just 20 catches, 415 yards and one touchdown, it is only a matter of time before the Jets terminate Holmes' bloated contract. His habit of rarely being available and his erratic attitude with the media are just icing on the poorly baked cake.

    There is a chance that he is brought back at a lower rate, but it makes more sense for the rebuilding Jets to move on from their mistake for good and rebuild their receiving corps from scratch.

     

    Stephen Hill: F

    Few, if any, Jets had a more disappointing season than New York's second-round pick from 2012. After going on injured reserve on December 13, Hill finished with just 21 catches for 252 yards. 

    He actually started off the season relatively well, making a handful of big plays. However, he went completely invisible in the second and third quarters of the season to the point where he started to lose a significant amount of playing time. 

    Hill's draft status and athletic ability will keep him on the team into 2014, but he is one more disappointing season away from the dreaded "bust" label.

     

    Jeremy Kerley: B-

    Kerley is one of the few bright spots on a depleted receiver corps, but even the Jets' most reliable target had stretches of disappointment. 

    While he missed five games with an elbow injury, he still had just 38 catches for 483 yards. He was effective on many third downs and was not working with the greatest of quarterback situations, but Kerley was certainly looking for a more impressive statistical season. He also lost his job as the punt returner in the middle of the season.

     

    David Nelson: B

    Unemployed at the start of the season, Nelson turned out to be one of general manager John Idzik's best additions. He wrestled away playing time from Stephen Hill to finish with 357 yards. 

    With one year left on his deal, he figures to be one of the few retainable assets from this year's receiving corps.

Tight Ends

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    Jeff Cumberland: C+

    The Jets were hoping that Cumberland would emerge as a No. 1 tight end, but perhaps their expectations were a bit unrealistic for the former undrafted free agent.

    While he did produce a few big plays for the Jets (four touchdowns), they will need a more dynamic presence at the position who can also double as a reliable blocker in the run game.

     

    Kellen Winslow: C

    Winslow's production was nearly identical to that of Cumberland's (354 yards) despite missing four games due to a suspension, but it was still more than anyone could have predicted.

    A better blocker than Cumberland, it remains to be seen whether or not the Jets want to bring back a player who will be 31 by the time the 2014 season gets underway.

Offensive Line

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    D'Brickashaw Ferguson: B

    The Jets' mainstay at left tackle did not have quite the dominant season that we have come to expect from him, but he was far from a liability protecting Geno Smith's blind side. 

    Now 30 years old, we may be seeing the decline of Ferguson, but he still has several more years of good football left in him if he can stay healthy.

     

    Brian Winters: D

    Winters gets a lot of flak for his play at left guard, and rightfully so—he was by far the biggest liability on the Jets line. There were countless times in which a promising drive was stalled because the rookie was beat cleanly in simple one-on-one situations. 

    The good news is that Winters was able to get 11 games of experience this year, but the Jets need to see improvement next year if he is going to retain his starting job.

     

    Nick Mangold: B-

    Mangold has a reputation as being one of the best centers in the league, but he saw a significant drop in his production this season, especially in the run game, grading out as one of the worst centers in the league in that department in Pro Football Focus' rankings (subscription required).

    He was still solid as a pass-protector, but perhaps a nagging injury that went unreported led to his sharp decline in the run game. Next season will tell us whether or not this season was a blip on the radar or a sign of permanent decline.

     

    Willie Colon: B

    One of several bargain buys John Idzik made this offseason, Colon provided great value as the starting right guard all season. He was arguably the Jets' best lineman in pass protection, but like Mangold, he struggled against the run for most of the season.

    The best part of Colon's year was that he was able to finish all 16 games without any major incident, contrary to the majority of his career. 

     

    Austin Howard: A-

    The Jets right tackle may not sell many jerseys, but he has arguably been the Jets' best offensive player this year. He was their best run-blocker and only allowed two sacks all season. 

    Howard is set to be a free agent this offseason, but look for the Jets to try to get him signed to a long-term deal.

Defensive Tackle

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    Damon Harrison: A

    It is difficult to describe how incredible Damon Harrison's season has been, considering where he came from as an undrafted free agent. In just his second season, Harrison has established himself as one of the best run defenders at his position and was arguably the biggest reason why the Jets were so improved against the run this year. 

    While he did start to tail off a bit toward the end of the year (which was likely due to him being on the field for so long), the physically gifted Howard still has room to grow into an even more dominant player.

Defensive Ends

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    Muhammad Wilkerson: A+

    While he was a bit of a no-show against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, there is no debating the fact that Wilkerson had a spectacular season. 

    Wilkerson has always been dominant against the run, but he improved remarkably as a pass-rusher, notching 10.5 sacks on the season. The Jets should look into locking up their best player with a long-term contract sooner rather than later.

     

    Sheldon Richardson: A-

    While he was not quite as good as Wilkerson as a pass-rusher, the rookie eclipsed all expectations as a run defender. With an insane amount of athletic ability, he breached the limits of versatility for a player his size, doing everything from dropping into coverage to taking handoffs. 

    With plenty of room to continue improving with experience, Richardson is a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Linebackers

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    David Harris: B+

    Harris successfully rebounded from a miserable 2012 season. He finished the season with 117 tackles and two sacks. While he is still a bit overpaid based on his positional value, Harris has re-established himself as one of the best inside linebackers in football.

     

    DeMario Davis: B+

    In his first full season as the Jets' starting inside linebacker next to Harris, Davis proved that he is more than capable both against the run and in coverage.

    Not only did he notch 105 tackles, but he was also effective covering tight ends and running backs in space, allowing Harris to do the heavy lifting between the tackles.

     

    Quinton Coples: B

    Coples had a slow start to the season after needing ankle surgery in the preseason, but he improved steadily as the season went on. He finished with 4.5 sacks at his new position at outside linebacker. 

    The Jets are hoping that Coples can stay healthy next season to see what his full potential is at outside linebacker without being hobbled by injury.

     

    Calvin Pace: B

    Somehow, Calvin Pace had a spectacular rebound season at the ripe age of 33, notching 10 sacks for the first time in his career. 

    Many of those sacks were more of a combination of good coverage and luck than skill, but Pace deserves credit for making vast improvements in all areas of his game, as his run defense was a big part of the Jets' improvement in that area from last season.

Cornerbacks

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    Antonio Cromartie: D

    While he had a nice game to finish off the season, there is no denying the fact that Cromartie had a miserable season for the first 15 weeks. Dealing with a bad hip, he was torched consistently and gave up as many big plays as any corner in the league.

    With a huge cap number, Cromartie is a prime candidate to get the ax in a few weeks, but there is a chance he will be brought back if his hip checks out.

     

    Dee Milliner: C

    For the first three months of the season, the Jets had to be nervous about the performance of their top rookie. Milliner was benched three times and struggled to adopt the techniques used in the professional ranks.

    However, Milliner finished the season strong with a very good December, looking better and better with each passing week. With three interceptions in his past two games, Milliner appears to have finally turned the corner.

    With a full offseason, Milliner will have a chance to make a massive leap from year one to year two.

     

    Kyle Wilson: B

    Quietly, Wilson was one of the steadiest players in the secondary as the slot cornerback.

Safeties

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    Dawan Landry: C+

    Landry was not brought on to be a game-changing type of player, and that is exactly what he panned out to be: a steady, veteran presence who would get the Jets through the season without any huge mistakes. 

    Landry was at his best as a run defender and was one of the Jets' top tacklers from week to week. Landry is still capable of starting, but he is the type of player teams will always be looking to upgrade from.

     

    Antonio Allen: B+

    Allen was one of the brightest spots of the Jets' season, emerging as arguably the best player in the secondary (which isn't saying much). He made a few big plays (highlighted by his pick-six on Tom Brady), but his most useful asset has been his ability to shut down tight ends on his own, which has been a problem for Rex Ryan's defense ever since he came to New York.

     

    Ed Reed: C-

    Ed Reed may have nabbed a pair of interceptions as a Jet, but in hindsight, bringing him on was a mistake. He was responsible for many more touchdowns than he prevented, and Rex Ryan's refusal to bench him permanently may have stunted the growth of young players like Antonio Allen.

Special Teams

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    Nick Folk: A

    While he did miss an easy field goal on Sunday, it is difficult to downplay the role Nick Folk had in the Jets' success. He had three game-winning field goals in the waning seconds of games, many of which were from long distances. 

    With just three missed field goals on the season, the Jets would be viewed as a much different team had Folk not made as many clutch kicks as he did.

     

    Ryan Quigley: B-

    The Jets made a midseason switch to Quigley because of the inconsistencies of the incumbent Robert Malone. The initial returns were not promising, as Quigley was shanking a handful of punts and playing as inconsistently as his predecessor. 

    He was eventually able to settle into his job with an average of 45.8 yards and only three touchbacks. He will be in the mix to be the starter next year, but not without any competition.

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