New York Jets: 5 Players Who Must Improve for Playoff Hunt

Antonio BonkalskiContributor IIIDecember 2, 2011

New York Jets: 5 Players Who Must Improve for Playoff Hunt

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    The New York Jets are hanging by a thread in the AFC playoff hunt. With a win against the Buffalo Bills last week, they have improved their chances slightly.

    Even though the Jets (6-5) stand only one game out from a wild card spot, but so do two other teams.

    There is no doubt the last couple weeks of the season are going to decide who makes the final two spots in the AFC, and the Jets may have an edge because they have been there before.

    New York has shown flashes of the AFC Championship Game team they had the past two seasons, but have also shown some horrid play from week to week as well.

    If the Jets want any chance at making the playoffs, they need to improve as a core and as individuals.

    Here are some players that must improve for the playoff hunt.

Mark Sanchez

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    Mark Sanchez is the most obvious of the players on the Jets that has been struggling this year.

    After being told he would get a bigger role in the offense in the offseason, he could not meet up with the demands of the coaches and has been a major role in why the Jets lose the way they do.

    Last season, Sanchez was not the main feature of the offense and that worked for the Jets, but this year he has too many weapons to just be a complement to the running game.

    For the Jets to improve, the offense needs to improve. For the offense to improve, it starts with Mark Sanchez.

    There have only been two games this season where Sanchez has not thrown an interception, which is the same as the number of games he didn't throw a touchdown.

    Sanchez has 11 interceptions on the year. Pair that with five fumbles lost and you can get a picture of why the Jets are struggling so much offensively.

    In order to make a playoff push, Sanchez has to be able to throw the ball when needed and be able to make key decisions, especially late in games.

Shonn Greene

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    The Jets have periodically been known for their bruising rushing attack, but this year they are a whole new-look offense.

    With more passing plays involved, the Jets running game has taken a backseat and leading this pack is Shonn Greene.

    The Jets had no choice but to shy away from the running game as they cannot consistently gain yardage on the ground.

    The Jets barely average more than 100 yards per game on the ground (100.4), and they need to do better as they are ranked 25th in the league.

    Greene was given the nod to start for the Jets after his dominant playoff performance two years ago, but, like Sanchez, hasn't lived up to expectations and is actually seeing his starting role fade as each week passes.

    Greene needs to prove he can be the spotlight back in the Jets offense or not only will Joe McKnight take his spot, but he and the Jets will miss the playoffs.

Eric Smith

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    The Jets defense has been very good in games this year, but have also been very poor, mainly late in games.

    One player that needs real improvement on the Jets defense is free safety Eric Smith.

    Smith is consistently burned by running backs and tight ends while also not being able to take down the quarterback when he gets there.

    The Jets pass defense relies on being able to cover receivers one-on-one because of the heavy blitzes they bring. This year, opposing quarterbacks just find who Smith is covering and get that player the ball.

    Smith needs to prove that he is worthy of starting for the Jets because he has looked so shaky this season. If his play continues to be poor, he might not find himself in the same position next year.

Darrelle Revis

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    Yes, Revis.

    The Jets' cornerback is undoubtedly the best player on the team and has been held to the highest standard of any cornerback in the league.

    Mostly, Revis has responded to the hype surrounding him, and he really is the best cornerback in the league, but he has to play up to that standard for the remaining games this season.

    Revis is consistent in shutting down opposing wideouts, but last week, Steve Johnson showed some weaknesses of Revis. It is now up to Revis to come back and show why he is the known as the best.

    It may be that the season is catching up to him, but the Jets saw a side of Revis they have not in a while and that is letting players get open.

    For the Jets to make the playoffs, they need their best player to be the best player. It may not be good news for Revis because it entails he cannot make a mistake, but it is just how it works.

John Conner

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    The Jets run game has struggled throughout the season and even though fans want to throw all the blame on running backs Greene, Tomlinson and McKnight, it is also due to the fact that the Jets are not as strong as a blocking team as they once were.

    The offensive line is not as strong as they once were and since they have gotten rid of Tony Richardson, so is their fullback.

    Between Mulligan and John Conner, the Jets main blockers for running plays, they cannot seem to lay the lumber and create holes for Greene to run through.

    The Jets running game needs to improve, and it starts with fundamentals. That is having your fullback block. 

    Conner has to be able to find ways to get Greene some yardage for the Jets to succeed in the remainder of the season.