4 New York Jets Who Need to Step it up or Face the Chopping Block

Tommy Favaloro@@BiancoNeroBlogContributor IIIAugust 23, 2011

4 New York Jets Who Need to Step it up or Face the Chopping Block

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    Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets have established themselves the past two seasons as one of the best teams in the NFL.

    Rex has had a lot of Super Bowl talk, predicting a world championship for a third straight season despite the fact that his past predictions might have left him with egg on his face.

    The hype surrounding the team has made them serious contenders to win it all, but the team has come up short the past two years as they were eliminated in consecutive AFC Championship games.

    Last year’s additions including LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie got the rest of the league talking about a Jets team that was thought to have had a fluke season in 2009-10 when they reached the AFC Championship against the Colts.

    This year Rex says this is the best roster he has had so far in his three years in New York. If that is indeed the case, this should finally be the season that Gang Green gets over the hurdle. If the teams falls short of their goal for a third straight season, players and maybe even members of the coaching staff or front office will face the chopping block.

    Here are the four New York Jets who will need to step it up or else face the consequences.

1. Vladimir Ducasse

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    2009 was a tremendous step in the right direction for the Jets, who reached uncharted territory ever since Joe Namath’s guarantee.

    Much of the success of the 2009-10 season was based on the ground-and-pound style of play, which was made possible by New York’s dominant offensive line consisting of Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Moore, Damien Woody and Alan Faneca.

    Faneca had arguably the best season of them all but surprisingly was released by the Jets following the 2009-10 season. The loss of the perennial Pro Bowler left the Jets with a hole at the left guard position which was supposed to be filled by 2010 second-round draft pick Vladimir Ducasse out of UMass.

    The 6’5’’, 325 pound lineman was given the starting job going into to the preseason last year but struggled mightily. His failure to adjust to the professional game opened the way for Matt Slauson, who took over the job and settled in well after a shaky start on the Jets offensive line.

    Slauson has taken over the left guard position but Ducasse now has a chance in 2011 after the retirement of Woody, and injuries to Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold and Robert Turner in the preseason.

    Ducasse hasn’t impressed so far and time might be running out on him with the Jets. He doesn’t look like he is ready to start a regular season game as he has put Mark Sanchez in harm’s way several times both last season and the beginning of this preseason.

    This is a season in which Ducasse must perform much better than he did last year.

    He might not be in the picture next year if the Jets decide to draft or sign another lineman who can play a better backup role or even make an occasional start in the regular season.

2. Joe McKnight

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    Joe McKnight came out of USC as an explosive and exciting running back much like former Trojan Reggie Bush.

    McKnight’s speed and athleticism seemed to make him the perfect replacement for Leon Washington, but his college success hasn’t transformed into success at the professional level just yet.

    As seen on last year’s HBO Hard Knocks, the running back struggled in training camp, having trouble with fitness and memorizing the playbook.

    He failed to impress last preseason and barely saw any playing time once the regular season rolled around.

    It is fair to say that the Jets 2010 fourth-round pick has been a disappointment. New York traded up in the draft to acquire him and they also let Danny Woodhead walk all because of McKnight’s potential to be an explosive back coming off the bench.

    Rookies usually struggle getting accustomed to the NFL. That said, McKnight will not be given a free pass in 2011. New York drafted running back Bilal Powell out of Louisville in the 2011 draft, a similar player to McKnight , which will create competition at that position.

    Behind Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, both McKnight and Powell will compete to become the team’s third back. If McKnight doesn’t perform, he could very well find himself without a job in the future. 

3. Nick Folk

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    Nick Folk is not a perfect kicker by any stretch of the imagination. Despite his clutch game-winning field goal in the 2011 AFC Wild Card playoff matchup against the Colts, Folk was far from perfect throughout the season.

    He was inconsistent and at times looked suspect in the easiest of field goal attempts. The kicker converted 30 of 39 kicks in the regular season, and 2 of 3 in the postseason. Folk never failed to make things interesting for Jets fans, no matter how close the kick.

    New York signed Folk to a one-year deal in the offseason, but the contract does not necessarily guarantee him a place on the roster come Week 1. The Jets also signed kicker Nick Novak and both will compete for the job in the preseason.

    Novak could very well impress Rex Ryan and threaten Folk’s future in New York. For a team that has had trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone and plays low-scoring close games, Folk will have to do better than last year’s 77 percent success rate if he wants to stay with the Jets.

4. Aaron Maybin

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    The Jets know a lot about first-round draft busts. After the Vernon Gholston debacle came to an end this offseason, the Jets decided to sign another disappointing linebacker in Aaron Maybin.

    Maybin was selected with the 11th pick in the 2009 draft by the Buffalo Bills and has a total of zero career NFL sacks. The former Penn State standout was released by Buffalo about a week ago but was given a second chance by the Jets, who are in need of a pass rusher.

    He will not be a starter and is expected to be used on passing downs to get after the quarterback. Maybin was signed on a one-year deal by the Jets so if he does not perform well in 2011, he will not be back.

    In addition to pride, a 2012 contract will provide Maybin with an incentive to play at the highest level for Gang Green. The 23-year-old will have to hear from the critics if he has another disappointing season.

    He doesn’t need to be told that 2011 is a make-or-break season. I don’t know that the Jets will have as much patience with Maybin as they had with Gholston simply because the Jets were not responsible for this draft bust.