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New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Shine In Week 1

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New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Shine In Week 1

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Almost every NFL observer has low expectations for the New York Jets in 2013. Between Rex Ryan's ridiculous press conferences, the never-ending quarterback saga and the lack of well-known playmakers, it is easy to see why there is a lack of optimism.

However, these observers often forget that the Jets have quite a few talented players on the offensive line and on defense, as well as few young skill players that could surprise. The quarterback situation remains a huge question mark, but the rest of the team is not nearly as bad it is made out to be.

The Jets enter their Week 1 contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers believing that it is a very winnable game, and I agree with them. The Jets obviously need a competent performance from rookie quarterback Geno Smith, but if they get that, they can certainly knock off the Bucs.

If the Jets are going to win, it is going to have to start with the defense. The defense is the strength of this team, and it has several Pro Bowl-caliber players. Those players must lead the team throughout the season, and they will need to be the best players on the field for New York on Sunday.

Offensively, the line must be the anchor of the team. The Jets will need a strong running game to take the pressure off of Smith, and when they do throw, Smith is going to need plenty of time. The Jets have a very good offensive line, and they are more than capable of accomplishing this.

The Jets believe they can get the season started with a win, but even if they don’t, expect these five players to shine.

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5. Jeremy Kerley

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It may seem like a risk picking a receiver to shine given all the questions around the Jets' passing game, but those questions are actually the reason Jeremy Kerley will have a good game. First of all, the Jets move will Kerley around quite a bit, and he should avoid Darrelle Revis most of the game.

The rest of the Bucs’ corners are not nearly as good, and Kerley should be able to easily create separation. With Smith under center for the first time, the Jets will run numerous short passes and screens, hoping to get Smith easy completions by getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

This plays perfectly to the lightning-quick Kerley’s strengths, and he will be able to get the ball in space and make plays. Someone is going to have to be the lead receiver for the Jets, and by far the best bet is Kerley.

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4. Muhammad Wilkerson

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Muhammad Wilkerson was a breakout star last season, and he enters his third year with massive expectations. Wilkerson is more than capable of being the best 3-4 end in the league not named J.J. Watt, and some would argue he’s already in that conversation.

Wilkerson should start his 2013 campaign with yet another dominant performance. He will be one of the Jets’ main weapons in shutting down running back Doug Martin, and Wilkerson has the type of ability to take away his side of the line in the run game.

In the pass rush, Wilkerson should have no problems handling right tackle Demar Dotson. Josh Freeman can be rattled by a good pass rush, and Wilkerson should be able to provide it. Expectations for him are sky high, but Wilkerson has the talent to meet them.

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3. D'Brickashaw Ferguson

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D’Brickashaw Ferguson has been one of the elite left tackles in the NFL his entire career, and at 29-years old, there is no reason to think his game is going to start slipping now. The Jets are going to need to give Smith all the time they can in the pass game, and Ferguson will be relied on heavily.

Ferguson is not quite as good in the run game as he is in pass protection, but he is still very solid. The Jets are going to need a solid rushing attack to take the pressure off of Smith, and the entire offensive line shares that responsibility.

Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers are likely thrilled at the prospect of hunting down a rookie QB on Sunday. However, they are going to be in for a rude awakening when they take on Ferguson. Smith might be under pressure at times, but it won’t be because of Ferguson.

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2. David Harris

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Linebacker David Harris was considered one of the best middle linebackers in football until his play slipped dramatically last season. Harris wasn’t the dominant run defender he had been in the past, and he was very poor against the pass.

This season, Harris needs to return to his normal level of play for the Jets to be successful. A matchup with Martin is a great way to see where Harris is at for the beginning of the season. Expect Harris to have a big game, making sure Martin doesn’t reach the secondary when he gets through the line.

Harris probably won’t be asked to do a ton in pass coverage in this game, as the more athletic DeMario Davis will draw the man-to-man assignments. Harris should be measured by how he performs against the run, and I expect this to be the start of a major bounce back season.

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1. Antonio Cromartie

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When the Jets traded Revis, they were making the statement that they were comfortable with Antonio Cromartie as their top cornerback. Cromartie was magnificent last season, shutting down the opposition’s top receiver in a very Revis-esque manner.

With Revis on the opposite sideline on Sunday, Cromartie will want to prove that he is just as good a cover corner as Revis. Freeman has been very turnover prone in his career, and don’t be surprised to see Cromartie get his hands on at least one pass.

Cromartie tends to step up in big games, and he definitely has something to prove in this one. He may not be quite as good as Revis, but I still wouldn’t want Vincent Jackson on my fantasy team this week.

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