New York Jets 2011 Season Predictions: 5 Players Who Will Defy the Haters

Ed OrzaCorrespondent IISeptember 3, 2011

New York Jets 2011 Season Predictions: 5 Players Who Will Defy the Haters

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    Much like head coach Rex Ryan, the New York Jets are either hated or revered. 

    The players on this list are doubted by dweebs sipping haterade all the way from mom's basement to the water cooler.

    The Jets have taken chances on some older players who have had some question marks in their careers.

    The media and fans alike are criticizing everyone from Mark Sanchez to Plaxico Burress.

    Currently, the most popular topic is whether or not Sanchez has what it takes to be an elite quarterback.

    We all know people love to hate—it's part of sports and life.

    Some "haters" exist because they are jealous, others because they are ill informed; the most common form of "hater-ology" is someone who rags on players purely because they don't like their personality on or off the field.  

    Here are five Jets who can't wait to prove all the non-believers wrong.  

Mark Sanchez

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    Since his debut on the NFL stage, Sanchez has been hated on in every realm of the sports' universe.

    That's not to say that he hasn't received exaggerated praise.

    As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    Sanchez has been relatively average as far as the development of a quarterback is concerned. Mark's numbers have been relatively unimpressive, but the numbers do not tell the entire story.

    Before the recent successes of players like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, it was almost unheard of for a first- or second-year quarterback to have a tremendous amount of success.

    Ryan and Flacco stepped into the role of franchise quarterback without hesitation.

    However, only Flacco has gone as deep into the playoffs as Sanchez, and Flacco has only been to one AFC Championship game versus Sanchez's two.  Flacco didn't play very well in that championship game, while Sanchez has played his best football in the postseason.

    During the 2009 regular season, Sanchez threw a dismal 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. In 2010 he guided the ball into the end zone 17 times and reduced his picks to a respectable 13. 

    For years, the Jets were in desperate need of a leader behind center who had the ability to take over games and achieve victory on his own.

    Hate on his swag if you must, blame the New York media for overexposure, but don't sleep on a quarterback who makes plays in the clutch. 

    Great field generals have thrown a lot of interceptions in the past; they just didn't throw many when it mattered.  

    Ben Roethlisberger is an example of a quarterback who is considered among the elite in the NFL, but who does not have a perfect stat sheet. Instead, his greatest attributes are his ability to extend plays outside of the pocket and come through in the clutch.  

    Sanchez's achievements are often diminished because he plays for such a good team with a great defense.  

    Roethlisberger has an elite defense and one of the best organizations in all of sports behind him.  

    Statistics can be improved, but denying the rare savvy with which Sanchez operates is a mistake.

Plaxico Burress

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    Plaxico has had a long road up to this point. 

    After two years, in prison he's 34 and in the twilight of his career.

    The hating is justified. 

    Still, that's part of what's great about sports: they provide the ability to prove the doubters wrong and rub it in their collective faces.  

    Plaxico has always been an impact receiver, but he's only caught double-digit touchdowns twice in his career.

    He just isn't the type of receiver who is going to light up the stat sheet, but while he may not put up mind-blowing numbers in 2011, his presence in the red zone will be invaluable.

    One of the Jets primary concerns going into this season was the need to address their ineptitude near the end zone.

    Plaxico's imposing frame also allows him to make catches with defenders draped all over him.  Clutch plays often occur in tight spaces where his size is a tremendous advantage. 

    Burress doesn't have too many years left, but he is coming off three of the best years of his career. 

    He had seven, ten, and twelve touchdowns in three campaigns with the Giants.

    Burress is motivated like never before, and we've seen how a humbling experience like going to prison can affect a player's career.  Michael Vick has evolved as a quarterback and a human being since his conviction. 

    If Plaxico has grown from his time in jail, he will prove everyone wrong in 2011. 

Shonn Greene

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    Greene is one of the most critical players on the Jets roster.

    If he has a dominating year, the Jets offense will be almost unstoppable. That being said, if the running game is missing in action early on, then the offense could be anemic.  

    Adhering to their team identity is essential to the Jets success, and a consistent running game is the backbone of their identity. 

    This is Greene's first chance to prove the non-believers wrong.

    In two seasons, Greene has 1,306 yards rushing on fewer than 300 carries. 

    He only saw limited action as a change-of-pace back and has never played a full season as a starter.

    Last season, LaDainian Tomlinson was supposed to support Greene as a third-down back. Greene wasn't ready to carry the load, so Tomlinson stepped up.

    He has to address his fumbling issue, something we've seen other backs do in the past with success. Examples include Tiki Barber and Adrian Peterson

    If Greene can emerge as the featured back, his style would perfectly complement Tomlinson's.

    The knock on Greene when he came into the league was that he couldn't catch the ball out of the backfield, but he went from no receptions his rookie season to 16 for 120 yards in his second year.

    At the pace Greene has been developing, it looks like 2011 is his year to make his mark.   

Jeremy Kerley

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    Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is in the perfect position. 

    Kerley will have a chance to make an impact in both the return game and as a utility-type receiver following the departure of Brad Smith to the Bills

    Kerley has shown dynamic ability on special teams, but isn't quite there yet as a wideout. Making the leap from college to the professional level as a receiver is one of the most difficult transitions in the NFL. 

    With a bevy of veteran receivers around him, Kerley won't have to make an impact immediately, but he will be able to learn from the other players on the roster.

    He's also a nice insurance policy in case some of the Jets older receivers are dinged up for a week or two during the year. 

    During Kerley's senior season at TCU, he had 56 receptions for 575 yards and ten touchdowns, plus two more rushing touchdowns.

    The Jets could use a playmaker with speed on special teams this season, and Kerley eventually may be a great slot receiver.

    In the meantime, Kerley will very quickly make Jet fans forget about Brad Smith.

    Check out this punt return of his when he was at TCU.  

Jim Leonhard

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    It may be a bit of a stretch to include Leonhard on this list. 

    I'm not sure he can be considered as "hated on." 

    Still, there's no doubt he's underrated.  

    I'm the first person to point out that his size and lack of speed are a liability in man coverage, though it is rare to find a player that doesn't have a weakness.  

    His contributions in other areas more than make up for his athletic deficiencies.

    Leonhard's value was demonstrated on a national stage when the Jets met the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football in 2010. Leonhard had suffered a broken leg a few days before the Monday night game. The Patriots walked all over the Jets.

    Were the Jets outplayed in every phase of the game?

    Yes.

    Did the Jets defense miss the presence of their "quarterback" in the secondary?

    Without a doubt.

    Rex Ryan brought Leonhard over with him for a reason when he left the Baltimore Ravens. Leonhard had stepped in for an injured Ed Reed and played exceptionally well.

    More importantly, Ryan understood how vital a cerebral player like Leonhard would be when installing his new defense in New York.

    Too often, fans and the media get caught up in numbers.

    I apologize to the math people out there, but football is not a game that can be defined by digits on a piece of paper. Statistics are great for bar stool debates, but those who have a true connection to the game know that stats are overrated.

    The human spirit cannot be accurately represented by a numerical value. Instead, an individual's play on the field should ultimately define their worth.

    Jim Leonhard perfectly represents this concept.  His numbers don't jump out at you, but his importance to his team is paramount. 

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