Look at that football...it's up in the air just like many aspects of the New York Jets for the upcoming 2010 season. Will they continue to be a ground-and-pound machine or will they trust a sophomore quarterback to open up the passing game a bit more? How will all of the free agent acquisitions mix with team chemistry?
The Jets hope to figure out the answers to these questions in the coming weeks and months as they embark on what they hope will be a season-long journey that will end with a February visit to Dallas for Super Bowl XVL.
However, in an off-season that featured acquisitions such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor, and Santonio Holmes, there are still many players remaining from last year's roster as well as some new draftees that will be looking to step their games up to much higher levels- Super Bowl-calibre levels.
Who might these players be? Welcome to this week's slideshow...
2010 NFL Predictions: Top 10 New York Jets Breakout Players. Enjoy!
What happens when your team releases nine-time Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca and drafts Vladimir Ducasse, a second-round pick from UMass? As coach Rex Ryan told the New York media, "We're getting better."
It is hard to believe that one of the league's best offensive lines could improve when it loses the experience and ability of an Alan Faneca, yet upon further review it is quite possible.
Although he will compete with fellow guard Matt Slauson for the right to replace Faneca, Ducasse would seem to have the edge as he is not only a run-blocker but can also block in passing situations.
Given the fact that Faneca was a poor pass-blocker who allowed seven sacks from his spot on the line, it is safe to say that Ducasse will be a sight for Sanchez's sore eyes (and rear end).
In what could be categorized as a potential post-draft sleeper pick, the Jets signed undrafted free agent cornerback Donovan Warren from Michigan.
Warren excelled during his three-year tenure at Michigan, earning the media's vote as cornerback on the first team All-Big Ten and the coaches second team All-Big Ten.
However, no matter the success that Warren had at corner, Rex Ryan and the Jets envision him as a safety and will give him every opportunity to succeed at the new position.
Given the troubles that the franchise had at safety last year, look for Warren to not only make the team, but to become a contributing force in the secondary for many years to come.
Although technically not a player in the truest sense of the word, New Meadowlands Stadium is still one of the top breakout candidates for the 2010 Jets season.
No longer having to play in the shadow of the New York Giants, the Jets will have a home where they are on equal ground as their football counterparts.
The Jets and their fans will finally be able to stake claim to a true homefield advantage—something that has been lacking for almost three decades since they left Shea Stadium for Giants Stadium back in 1983.
When run-stopping behemoth Kris Jenkins went down with a season-ending injury, the Jets were left with a huge 360-pound gap to fill on the defensive line.
Enter Mike DeVito. Switching between nose tackle and defensive end, DeVito had his best NFL season to date as he registered a career-high 28 tackles.
DeVito seems to have that "big game" mentality as well. Although the Jets fell to the New England Patriots in Week 11, DeVito had a career-high six total tackles (including four solo tackles). Additionally, DeVito recorded his first full NFL sack as he slammed Phillip Rivers to the ground in the Jets playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Look for DeVito to continue to grow and improve on the already-stellar defensive line.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Joe McKnight looks to fill the hole that was created when the Jets traded Leon Washington to Seattle.
Just like Washington, McKnight can do it all—rush the football, catch passes, return kicks and punts, and even throw the occasional pass if need be.
Additionally, McKnight will be reunited with former USC teammate Mark Sanchez, a luxury that should go a long way towards easing his transition from college to the NFL.
Coming off a season in which he caught 45 passes for 522 yards and 2 TDs, Jets tight end Dustin Keller looks primed and ready to take the next step towards becoming one of the elite tight ends in the NFL.
With his terrific hands and above-average speed, Keller is a great option for QB Mark Sanchez to look for when he comes out of the huddle. The presence of wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards should also leave plenty of open space for Keller to roam on the football field.
The time is now for Dustin Keller.
Along with Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha helped to plug the 360 pound gap on the defensive line that was left when nose tackle Kris Jenkins went down to a season-ending injury.
A former Utah Ute, the Jets third-round pick of the 2005 draft filled in remarkably for the gargantuan Jenkins, as Pouha made 45 tackles, 33 of which were the solo variety.
Look for Sione Pouha to remain a key contributor along the Jets' defensive line regardless of whether Kris Jenkins is able to return to the lineup.
With the 29th overall pick in the draft, the Jets selected Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson and officially served notice to quarterback and wide receivers throughout the NFL.
Imagine...adding Wilson to a secondary that already consists of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Jim Leonhard—where is a quarterback to look? Wilson certainly cements the Jets as a pass defense that is second to none.
As Wilson will start at nickel cornerback and punt returner, he will most certainly pay immediate dividends on defense and special teams.
Having thrown 12 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions, to say that Mark Sanchez endured growing pains during his rookie season as an NFL quarterback would be an understatement.
However, fans saw glimpses of what Sanchez is capable of as he led the Jets to playoff victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers.
With numerous receiving threats now at his disposal (LaDainian Tomlinson, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Joe McKnight), look for Sanchez to improve a great deal as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will most certainly open the playbook for him a bit more.
Jets' fans can only hope that the next football Sanchez carries off the field will be after a victory at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.
When you let go of one of the most admired leaders of your football team who just happened to be a 1,000 yard rusher with the potential to be a future Hall-of-Famer, you had better have a solution- a really good solution.
When the Jets parted ways with RB Thomas Jones, the Jets believed that the time is now for Shonn Greene to officially step up and become the featured performer in the Jets backfield. Given his strong playoff performances, who could argue?
On January 9, 2010, Greene rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in a 24-14 playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals. On January 17, 2010, he had 23 carries for 128 yards. Additionally, he scored on a 53-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter as the Jets reached their first AFC Championship game since 1998.
The Jets will certainly miss Jones' leadership but there is every reason to believe that the grass will be "Greene-er" on the other side.