New York Jets: 6 Players Facing Crucial Seasons in 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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