The New York Jets actually have a pretty young Roster. During John Idziks brief career as the Jets GM, he has made an emphasis on building the team throught the Draft and bargin hunting in Free Agency. In this article I will discuss the 5 players I expect to make significant upgrades in stats and play on the field. Before I discuss those players, let me first share some honorable mentions.
Players like C Nick Mangold and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson are already considered among the best at their positions. DE Muhammad Wilkerson should be in that same class, but has been snubbed in recent years for any post season awards and accolades. Mo is entering his 4th Season so is not quite the seasoned Vet like Nick and Brick and still has room to improve. With 10.5 sacks last year any improvement he does have may not be as big a jump as the players I will talk about in a moment.
WR Jeremy Kerley is in a similar boat as Wilkerson. He isn't as dominant at his position, but he is above average and all with no other threat on Offense to allow him to take advantage in soft coverage or mismatches. This should change this year, but Kerleys ceiling isn't as high as Wilkersons. His numbers should go up with other weapons on Offense that will demand more attention from opposing Defenders, but his jump won't be as significant.
G Brian Winters was thrown into the deep end of the pool last season due to penalties by starter Vladimir Ducasse and asked to tread water. Unfortunately, he couldn't, but he didn't exactly go completely under either. He will improve over last year, but again it won't be as much as the players to come, so without further ado and in no particular order I give you my top 5 Jets to improve in the 2014-2015 NFL Season.
QB GENO SMITH:
Like Winters, QB Geno Smith was thrown in the deep end thanks to a season ending injury to Mark Sanchez. Smith had his ups and downs and just when it seemed as if he was going to drown, he not only treaded water, but for the last month of the regular season he seamed to swim in the Jets Offense. He finished his Rookie Season with 3,046 passing yards, 12 TDs with 21 INTs, 366 rushing yards and 6 TDs, but also had 3 fumbles. Last year he was a Rookie QB learning the position, a new Offensive System and had limited weapons to bail him out. He enters the 2014 Off Season with a year of familiarity, a mentor in Michael Vick who's playing style Geno imitated to great success, newer weapons in his arsenal including Free Agent WRs Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford, RB Chris Johnson and Rookie TE Jace Amaro who will be a match up NIGHTMARE to go along with a few Rookie WRs. Expect Geno to grow, bring his turnovers down and be a threat in the passing game that the Jets haven't had in the Rex Ryan era.
WR STEPHEN HILL:
Hill was Drafted and it was widely known that he was a project from the beginning, but in his first two Seasons he has been placed on Season Ending Injured Reserve. It's hard to work on improving if your constantly healing from injury and not with your Coaches and Teammates. In his first 2 years with the Jets Hill has only combined for 594 yards and 4 TDs and already have some calling him a bust. However, Hill suffered, like Kerley, from having no other weapons around him and after being praised by Coaches last Off-Season having to deal with Rookie Geno Smith. This year both Players are going to need each other. Hill has worked out to improve physically to stave off injury which resulted in growing 1.5 inches taller which just illustrates that he is a young player still growing. I think that Hill will be among the most improved players in all of the N F L. He is now 6'5 and sporting 4.30 speed and in a pivotal year I think he will rise to the challenge and amass 850+ yards and 7 TDs.
CB DEE MILLINER:
While Geno Smith had an up and down year, Dee Milliner had a down year and was benched THREE times until Veteran Ed Reed joined the Jets and personally showed Milliner how to be a Pro, and study film. This mentorship lead to Milliner winning Defensive Rookie Of The Month for the last leg of the Season and earning 3 INTs while shutting down Clevelands Josh Gordon and Miamis Mike Wallace. Many don't know if Milliner will continue to struggle, or if the final month of the season is an indication of the player that he will be. Rex Ryan though believes that Milliner will be among the top CBs and since he knows more about Defense than anyone your going to read or hear give their opinion on the matter I would side with the New York Jets Head Coach. If Milliner can stay healthy, look for him to be a shut down Corner.
DE SHELDON RICHARDSON:
After one year as a Pro and winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Sheldon Richardson was named #94 in the NFLs top 100 players. If you were to ask him though, that WASN'T high enough. After coming into the league Richardson has had Jets fans full attention. He talks a big game, but once the pads come on he backs up every word. He earned 42 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his Rookie Season and was rated amongst the best against the run. The ceiling truly is high for this player who has stated publicly that he wants to be greater than Warren Sapp. Richardson is an integral part of the Jets Defensive Line and if he is able to make the same improvements in his game as fellow Defensive Lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson made early in his young career, then look for the Jets to have the Fiercest D-Line in the League, and for Sheldon to brag all about it.
OLB QUINTON COPLES:
Last year after the Jets Drafted Sheldon Richardson 13th overall, many pundits questioned the move, because Quinton Coples was just Drafted at the same position 16th overall the year before. What was later revealed was that during Coples Draft workouts with the Jets, Rex Ryan put him through Outside Linebacker drills. With the addition of Richardson, Coples was moved to the OLB position for the first time in his career. He suffered an ankle injury during the Pre-Season and missed plenty of reps during Training Camp and a few reporters began to call him a bust. As the Season went on and his health returned a few opposing QBs called him a beast. Anyone who has watched the tape of the New Orleans game can bare witness to what Rex saw in Coples when he Drafted him. In his first year in the position Coples had 24 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble which gives him 46 tackles, and 10 sacks in his two years as a pro. With a full Off Season learning and growing into the position and a 15 lbs weight loss look for Coples to MATCH his career numbers in 2014. Maybe not in total tackles, but in Sacks. A position switch takes time, but Coples has the athletic ability to stand up and the improved play from Wilkerson, and Richardson will suck in the attention to the inside which will give Coples plenty of chances to wreak havoc rushing from the Outside.
So there you have my picks for top 5 improved Jets Players this year. Agree or disagree, but leave a comment on who you think will jump this year and why, and always GO JETS!!!