New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Stumble in Week 1

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New York Jets: 5 Players Who Will Stumble in Week 1

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets enter Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still having quite a few questions about their football team. The Jets are breaking in new starters all over the field, with most of them being young and inexperienced.

The headliner of this group, of course, is rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who was named the starting quarterback yesterday. Smith is a major question mark, but Mark Sanchez’s injury left the Jets with no choice but to give the rookie his first start.

The presence of Smith in the lineup may change how the offense looks. The Jets will have to call plays that Smith is comfortable with and set him up for success. That is going to have a major impact on the production of the skill players, who have it tough enough already against a talented Tampa Bay defense.

For the Jets’ defense, having six new starters raises from some questions of its own. The Jets are relying heavily on youth this season, and rookie first round picks Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson are among the new starters. Starting rookies is always risky business, as most of them require additional time to learn schemes and adjust to the NFL game.

The Bucs figure to be one of the most improved teams in the league this season, and they want to get their season off to a good start. They will see the Jets as a game they should win, and the Jets will have to find a way to surprise the Bucs.

Unfortunately, these five players who will have a difficult time helping that cause. There are a number of reasons why they will struggle, including matchup, scheme and surrounding personnel. The Jets need contributions from everyone, but these five players will stumble in Week 1.

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5. Jeff Cumberland

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Jeff Cumberland was a breakout star for the Jets in the preseason, scoring touchdowns in each of the first two games. However, every ball Cumberland has caught this preseason was thrown by Sanchez. Smith rarely played with a tight end in college, so learning to target one is an adjustment for him.

The Bucs have two excellent safeties in Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, and those two players will likely rotate covering Cumberland. Cumberland is still developing, and having that difficult a matchup right off the bat will make it a huge challenge for him to be effective.

When you combine that with the major questions around Smith’s ability to run the passing game, there doesn’t seem to be many positives for Cumberland heading into the first game. He and Smith will learn to work together, and I believe Cumberland will have a very good season -- just not a good Week 1.

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4. Dee Milliner

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie cornerback Milliner faces the unenviable task of replacing Darrelle Revis, and he has the added challenge of facing Revis is Week 1. After missing so much of camp with a shoulder injury, Milliner is still not quite ready for real game action.

Milliner will spend most of his day matched up with Mike Williams, who is a big, physical receiver. Milliner is a tough corner, but he will probably be overmatched on few occasions. Rookie corners often need a few games to adjust to the speed and precision of an NFL passing game, and Milliner figures to be no different.

Milliner is going to be a very good player, but it is not going to happen immediately. He still needs time to learn and adjust, and while Week 1 could be a struggle, it will be a good lesson for him in his development.

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3. Antwan Barnes

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets signed outside linebacker Antwan Barnes to come in and be a pass rush specialist. However, the injury to Quinton Coples has forced Barnes to take on a bigger role, and there is serious concern that he will be a liability against the run.

Barnes’ only productive season was his 11-sack performance in 2011, and other than that, there is no precedent to believe he can be a game-changing pass rusher. Barnes could be somewhat effective as a situational rusher, but the Jets are asking too much from him.

The Bucs are going to focus on the run with Doug Martin, so Barnes will probably lose significant playing time to Garrett McIntyre. It’s going to be hit or miss with Barnes this season, and Week 1 figures to be a miss.

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2. Stephen Hill

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Hill is expected to step up and become the Jets' No. 1 receiver this season. However, Hill has still shown some mental mistakes, and though he seems to have solved his drop issues, he still has a long way to go to become a polished receiver.

Of course, being the No. 1 receiver earns you the challenge of the opposition’s No. 1 corner, in this case the former Jet and best corner in league, Revis. Revis is returning to New York and is going to be playing with a vengeance, and he will spend a lot of time on Hill.

With Santonio Holmes still questionable, Hill figures to receive the bulk of Revis’ attention. With Smith throwing the ball, Hill’s production was questionable enough. However, facing coverage from Revis will make it non-existent, and don’t be surprised if Hill is held without a catch.

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1. Geno Smith

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks greatly skewed the public perception of what a first year QB can do, making everyone forget that the vast majority of them have major struggles. Smith is still learning a pro-style offense and hasn’t had many game reps, so he needs more time.

Sanchez’s injury forced Smith into the starting lineup even though he is clearly not ready for NFL action. The Jets are going to have to try to keep it simple for him, but simple often means predictable. The Bucs have a good defense, and they are not going to want a rookie to get the best of them.

Smith will probably get better as the season goes on and gets more time and reps to adjust. However, Week 1 is not going to pretty, and Jets fans need to be prepared for a sloppy, turnover-filled performance. Starting a rookie before he’s ready is a bad idea, and it will have poor results.

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


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