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New York Jets: 5 No-Name Players Who Could Explode in 2013

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New York Jets: 5 No-Name Players Who Could Explode in 2013

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The New York Jets head into the 2013 season at the beginning of a youth movement. They spent much of their offseason purging their roster of overpaid and under-performing veterans, and they will be expecting many members of their recent draft classes to assume starting roles.

Some of these players have already been contributing to the team, and it should surprise no one when young talents such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Coples have big years for the Jets. These are players who are either high draft picks or have already proven themselves (or both, in Wilkerson’s case), and the team has absolutely no concerns about them playing a major role.

However, a team is not built solely of first-round draft picks. The Jets do not have a lot of veterans anywhere except the offensive line, and they are relying on some players that are a little more obscure to become contributors.

Some of these players have already shown what they are capable of in training camp and the first two preseason games, and they will be expected to continue to build on those performances. The others must catch up and continue to improve over the last two weeks of the preseason, because they will be counted on to contribute.

Rebuilding is a difficult thing to do in the NFL, but the Jets are beginning the process the right way. If some of these young, unheralded players can emerge as key figures, then the Jets will be in excellent shape for the future.

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5. TE Jeff Cumberland

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Tight end Jeff Cumberland has been with the Jets for several years, but he has spent a good chunk of that time either injured or on the practice squad. Last season, he was finally given a chance to prove himself following Dustin Keller’s injury, and he showed flashes of the player he can become.

Cumberland has been excellent in the Jets’ first two preseason games, scoring a touchdown in each. Mark Sanchez seems extremely comfortable targeting his tight end, and Cumberland could become a big-time red zone target for the Jets.

The NFL has evolved in a way that makes tight end a very important position, and Cumberland could be a long-term answer for the Jets. He is a big, athletic pass catcher and if he can continue to produce the way he has in the preseason, then he could be a breakout star.

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4. ILB DeMario Davis

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The Jets chose DeMario Davis in the third round of last year’s draft, fully intending on leaving him in a backup role as a rookie and moving him to a starting position this year. With the release of Bart Scott, Davis’ time has come at linebacker.

Davis played quite a bit for the Jets in nickel packages last season, and he showed the type of coverage ability and sideline-to-sideline speed that teams love from their inside linebackers. He is still a work in progress against the run, but his speed and coverage skills complement fellow inside backer David Harris perfectly.

The Jets wanted to get younger and more athletic on defense this season, and Davis is a prime example of that initiative. He will likely have to go through some growing pains as he learns to be a three-down player, but he has the potential to be a game-changer at linebacker.

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3. DT Kenrick Ellis

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Nose tackle Kenrick Ellis is a small school project that the Jets have been working on for the last two seasons. He is being handed the starting position this season, and the team believes that he is capable of being a tough run-stopper in the middle of their defensive line.

Ellis checks in at 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, so he certainly looks like the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. He is very strong and has good quickness for his size, and he has shown the ability to control the point of attack and shut down the run game.

Ellis is very raw however, and he has dealt with a back injury in camp that has cost him reps. He still remains on track to start Week 1, but he could have some early struggles as he adjusts to his new workload. Ellis is still a project, but he could be a difference-maker in the run game for the Jets.

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2. WR Clyde Gates

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Clyde Gates is one of the fastest players on the Jets, and the team wants to turn the young wide receiver into the deep threat they have been lacking. Gates was able to show some potential to be that player in limited action last season, and he should see his targets increase quite a bit this year.

Like many burners, Gates still needs work on his hands and route running. However, he has shown improvement in camp and in preseason games, and he has a good chance to open the season as the team’s no. 3 receiver (assuming Santonio Holmes is still injured).

Gates also brings excellent kick return abilities to the table. The status of return man Joe McKnight is completely up in the air, and if he is cut, it will be Gates who handles the returns. With his speed, Gates could have as big an impact on special teams as he does on offense.

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1. RB Bilal Powell

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Bilal Powell has been one of the best players the Jets have had in camp this summer, and his role with the team has increased quite a bit in recent weeks (click here for a full breakdown of Powell’s performance). Powell will probably be the backup running back Week 1, but he is still extremely important to the offense’s success.

With McKnight and Mike Goodson questionable to make the team, Powell has emerged as the third-down back for the Jets. With those two out, Powell is the best backfield receiver and pass blocker on the roster, and he will see significant work in passing situations for the Jets.

Powell was excellent in the Jets’ last preseason game, and if he can continue that level of performance, he could start to take some carries away from Chris Ivory. No matter how the Jets choose to manage their backfield, it is safe to say that Powell will be a big part of it.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google