5 Under the Radar Players Who Could be Key for the New York Jets
Under the Radar Players Who Could Be Key for New York
It is no secret that the New York Jets have a significant lack of talent all over the field. On paper, there are only three or four teams in the NFL that project to be as bad as the Jets. They are caught in the awkward position of trying to rebuild with youth while still having huge financial investments in several veterans. This is a transitional year for the team, and one that will likely see the losses pile up. If they are to salvage respectability this season, some of the younger and lesser known players must step up and become contributors.
The Jets have needs all over the field, with the only truly strong position groups being offensive tackle, center and defensive end. If there is any silver lining for New York, it is that lack of surefire starters guarantees training camp competition. This open competition will give a large percentage of the roster a very real chance at winning a starting job, and will allow the Jets the chance to discover new talent. Many of the team’s recent draft picks will be given every opportunity to prove that they are worthy of becoming starters, and development from these players could hold the key to turning the Jets’ fortunes around.
Head coach Rex Ryan will be looking for someone to prove he can take on a bigger role, and the five players featured here are young backups who could all gain starting jobs as soon as opening day. They are not the household names on the team, but if a few of them can develop into key contributors, the Jets will have discovered several potential long term starters.
Kenrick Ellis was the Jets’ third round pick in 2011, drafted as a project at the nose tackle position. He has only appeared in 17 games in his two seasons, totaling a very unimpressive 16 tackles and zero sacks. Ellis’ grace period is officially over. He will battle veteran Antonio Garay for the starting job in training camp, and the Jets desperately need him to become a controlling force in the middle of the defensive line. With a lack of pass rushers on the edge, interior pressure and run stopping from Ellis would take a lot of pressure off the back seven.
Wide receiver Clyde Gates is one of the fastest players in the NFL, running a 4.31 40 during the combine before the 2011 draft. He remains raw after two seasons in the league, especially in his route running. However, he brings a vertical element to the Jets that the team has lacked in recent seasons, and that ability to stretch the field could prove a valuable asset for the team. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is installing a West Coast offense, and Gates will likely struggle to gain significant playing time due to his lack of polish. However, that offense calls for occasional deep shots, and if Gates can stretch the field and score a couple long touchdowns, he could become the explosive weapon Gang Green’s offense has been looking for.
I chose Josh Bush for this section, but the same statements could easily apply to Antonio Allen, the man he is competing against to start at free safety. The reason development from Bush would be more beneficial is his pass coverage skills. Rex Ryan’s defense requires a rangy playmaker in centerfield, a role that Bush could fill nicely. He recorded six interceptions in his senior season at Wake Forest, demonstrating his ability to cover the middle of the field. He was unable to crack the safety rotation as a rookie, but the starting job is his for the taking this season. Safety is one of New York’s weakest positions, but Bush could change that.
Brian Winters was the fourth player the Jets selected in April’s draft, but he will be expected to provide the same level of contributions as his bigger name classmates. The guard from Kent State will be battling veterans Stephen Peterman and Willie Colon for one of the two starting guard positions. Winters is a huge body at 6’4”, 320 pounds, and he can become the type of road-grader guard who brings new life to the Jets’ rushing offense, which ranked 23rd in the NFL last season, gaining just 3.8 yards per attempt. If Winters wins the starting left guard position he will be flanked by Pro Bowlers D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, who will cover for his lack of experience. Quick development from Winters could solidify the left side of the Jets line for years to come.
It’s not often you see a fullback as a potential key contributor, but then again Tommy Bohanon has a different set of skills than your typical fullback. Last year at Wake Forest, Bohanon caught 23 passes for 208 yards and five touchdowns. The West Coast offense relies heavily on check downs and backs catching balls out of the backfield, and Bohanon could become a perfect safety valve for whichever quarterback is under center. His flexibility in a H-back type role could add a unique element of versatility to the attack, as well as create mismatches for the other playmakers.