New York Jets: 6 Players Facing Crucial Seasons in 2011

Chris Dela Rosa@chris_deezyContributor IJune 14, 2011

New York Jets: 6 Players Facing Crucial Seasons in 2011

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets warms up prior to their 2011 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Even though the lockout continues, each day just means that we are all closer to the day when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.  Until then, all we can do is speculate what will happen between the players and owners and analyze each team.

    This list will take you through some New York Jets players who will have "make it or break it" seasons in 2011.  Some outcomes may not be severe (i.e. no giant impact on one's career if they do not succeed) but others have massive implications for a player's future.  

    As always, feedback is welcome. Enjoy!

6. Eric Smith

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Eric Smith #33 of the New York Jets argues with back judge Dino Paganelli #105 against the Pittsburgh Steelersduring the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Smith’s future with the Jets does not depend on this season as much as others, but if he does well this season, he could see a nice raise down the line.  Prior to the first Jets-Patriots game in Foxborough, starting safety Jim Leonhard broke his leg; this allowed Smith to step in at the starting position.

    Smith started each game after Leonhard’s injury and aside from the Patriots' game, he did well.  Not much has been reported about Leonhard’s recovery from his injury. If he is not able to play as well as he did last year, Smith may land himself a starting role on Rex Ryan’s defense.

    Barring any major injury, this season will not break Eric Smith and his career, but it could definitely “make him.”

5. Kyle Wilson

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    MIAMI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Cornerback Kyle Wilson #20 of the New York Jets is called for pass interference on Receiver Brian Hartline #82 of the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Like Eric Smith, this season won’t make a huge negative impact on Kyle Wilson’s career, but how he produces can make a nice positive impact.  Wilson did not have the great 2010 he had hoped for as the Jets 2010 draft first-round selection.

    In order to keep the lock-down secondary, the Jets will likely re-sign veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie after he had a great 2010 as Darrelle Revis’ counterpart.  This year, Wilson needs to show that he was worth the investment, and that he can defend as well as other top cornerbacks in the league.

    If he does this, the Jets could have their own big three in their secondary, creating a nightmare for opposing offenses.

4. Mike DeVito

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    SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 07:  Mike Devito #70 of the New York Jets stands on the field against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL game on December 7, 2008 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    This year may be DeVito’s last chance to prove that he should be the starting defensive end for the Jets.  Last season, he had a total of 59 tackles and zero sacks; this lack of production is one of the reasons why the Jets used their first-round pick on Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson.

    Wilkerson is a versatile player that can play both defensive end and defensive tackle, but because of the lockout, he will be behind (knowledge-wise) if and when the season starts.  DeVito has been a part of the Jets system for five years already and should take this opportunity to land himself a starting spot. Otherwise, he could end up on the Jets bench for years to come.

3. Wayne Hunter

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Wayne Hunter #78 of the New York Jets looks on against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    Last season, right tackle Damien Woody suffered a knee injury that kept him out late in the season and did not allow him to play to his full potential in the playoffs.  As a result, the Jets released him after they lost to the Steelers, before the lockout began.

    With that, the starting slot for right tackle is up for grabs.  Because the Jets did not draft an offensive lineman in the draft, they are likely looking inward for Woody’s replacement.  Wayne Hunter will be entering his eighth year in the NFL. This is his chance to show the Jets’ coaching staff that he deserves the title of “starting right tackle for the New York Jets.”  If he does not get the starting spot this year, it is likely that Hunter will ride the bench until the end of his career.

2. Mark Sanchez

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets walks towards the sideline in pain against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ste
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Entering his third year as an NFL quarterback, Mark Sanchez needs to step his game up.  Over the last two years, he has slowly improved as he has thrown fewer interceptions and more touchdown passes.

    What places Sanchez in this slideshow is injury.  In 2009, his inability to slide led to a knee injury that still causes him to wear a brace when he plays.  Last season, he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder.  Although it was painful, Sanchez played through the playoffs with the injury.

    If these kinds of injuries become a yearly occurrence with Sanchez, they could escalate and he may end up being a waste of an investment and first-round pick.  In order for it to be a “make it” season, Sanchez cannot suffer from any serious injury this year.

1. Joe McKnight

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets sits dejected after being defeated 24 to 19 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bell
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Most of you may be thinking that this is a stupid selection, but before you jump to conclusions, think about this time last year.  All that has been said about Joe McKnight is that he had a good college career and has some NFL potential but has been doing nothing productive after being drafted by the Jets.

    The same story continued throughout preseason. It was not until McKnight started to show some signs of production in the last week of 2010 against Buffalo that he garnered attention.

    The Jets will likely not re-sign wide receiver Brad Smith because they have other receivers like Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes to worry about as they try to fulfill their needs through free agency.  With that, McKnight will get a chance to impress as a return man for the Jets’ special teams.  If he does not come out of this opportunity with solid numbers on special teams, there is no reason for the Jets to keep him.



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