Five Young New York Jets Players Who Have Raised Their Game So Far in 2012
A Few Young New York Jets Players Who Have Raised Their Game in 2012
Anyone who's watched them play knows that they have not played nearly as well as they believe they're capable of, and that's going to have to change pretty quickly if the Jets want to play postseason football for the third time in four seasons under head coach Rex Ryan.
Thankfully it hasn’t been all bad. While there are still plenty of things they need to tighten up, there have been a lot of positives as well.
The Jets have gotten younger in 2012, and while growing pains are to be expected, some of their younger players have done an admirable job stepping up when called upon this season.
Today, I wanted to highlight some of the unsung Jets players who have raised their game so far this season. These players deserve credit for their increasing contributions to the team.
In fact, two players on this list did not even join the team until September, after the conclusion of training camp, yet have stepped in seamlessly and played well.
Some of the players on this list have cemented themselves as unquestioned starters, while others share playing time at a crowded position but are starting to separate themselves as guys that deserve more snaps.
Next time you’re watching the Jets play, keep an eye out for these players. You’ll be seeing plenty of them going forward.
Muhammad Wilkerson - Defensive Lineman
22-year-old defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has been everything the Jets could've hoped he'd be after selecting him 30th overall in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
While the Jets have struggled in run defense, don't blame Wilkerson. He has been outstanding as a 3-4 defensive end, as he's played as well against the run as any defensive end in football.
Despite seeing double teams due to his improved play, he's also averaging two pressures per game as a pass rusher, showing that he's more than just a superb run stuffer.
Wilkerson usually plays an oft-overlooked role, as a 3-4 defense end/4-3 defensive tackle, but he has been nothing short of brilliant so far in 2012, just as head coach Rex Ryan predicted this offseason.
Bilal Powell - Running Back
Arguably no Jets player has raised his stock more in one offseason than second-year running back Bilal Powell.
The 23-year-old Powell, a fourth-round pick in 2011, was fourth on the depth chart a year ago but has quietly become the most productive running back on the team.
Some of that is due to the disappointing play of starting running back Shonn Greene, but a lot of it also has to do with Powell's dramatic improvement in all phases of the game.
As a runner, a pass catcher, and as a key pass blocker, Powell is showing that he could be for real, and that he deserves to get a lot more reps going forward.
Konrad Reuland - Tight End/H-Back
Konrad Reuland has made quite an impression for a guy who first joined the Jets on September 1, after the conclusion of training camp. The 24-year-old spent the 2011 season and 2012 preseason with the San Francisco 49ers but was claimed off waivers by the Jets after the loss of H-back Josh Baker to a knee injury.
Reuland wasted little time picking up the playbook, and he's seen significant playing time in every game so far this season. Not only has he been a safety valve as a check-down receiver for his former high school teammate, Mark Sanchez, he's also taken over Baker's H-back duties and done well there too.
With fullback John Conner out injured in Week 3, Reuland saw time in the backfield as a fullback and held up quite well, showing versatility as a blocker and as a receiver, with two first down receptions in the win.
For a guy who just came to the team this month and has been thrown into the fire, the Jets have to be thrilled with Reuland's contributions thus far. It stands to reason that the Jets will lean on him once more as they get ready to face Reuland's former team in Week 4.
Jeremy Kerley - Wide Receiver/Punt Returner
The Jets have gotten outstanding production from Jeremy Kerley, their 2011 fifth-round pick.
The shifty 5'9 Kerley has had a knack for the big play this season, after he showed flashes of brillance as a rookie. Kerley already has three touchdowns in as many games in 2012, two as a receiver and one on a punt return.
The 23-year-old former TCU Horned Frog is averaging a robust 23.1 yards per catch over the first three weeks of the season, and he's averaged 35 yards per catch over the last two games.
He's also averaged a nifty 17 yards per punt return, including a 68-yard score in Week 1. Just for kicks, he also completed his only career pass attempt for a 41-yard gain back in 2011.
He's shown the ability to make a man miss in the open field, and the Jets would be wise to try to get him the ball in space as often as they can.
That could mean more three-receiver sets for the Jets offense, ensuring that Kerley gets his chances to make plays.
Robert Malone & Nick Folk - Punter & Placekicker
Ok, I cheated a little. Kickers are people too, and I wanted to single out both Robert Malone and Nick Folk for a terrific start to the 2012 season.
Malone, (above left ) who did not join the team until five days before the start of the regular season, has done an admirable job both as the Jets' punter and as a holder.
The 24-year-old Fresno State product has punted 14 times over the first three weeks of the season, averaging a solid 46.4 yards with a long of 61 yards. He's had 6 of those 14 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, with only one touchback.
4 of his 6 punts on Sunday were downed inside the 20, helping the Jets keep field position on their side in an eventual 23-20 overtime victory. His net average on the year is 40 yards, which he can definitely improve upon going forward. But he's certainly impressed in his first month in green.
Speaking of kickers, placekicker Nick Folk has been money to start the year, going 6 for 6 over the first three weeks. The Jets can only hope he repeats his strong start to the 2011 season, in which he made his first 11 kicks and did not miss a field goal until November.
Folk was 3 for 3 on Sunday, including the game-winner in overtime, and Malone has been flawless as Folk's holder all season long. Special teams often get overlooked, especially when they're performing well, so hats off to Robert Malone and Nick Folk for their strong starts to the 2012 season.