Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comOver the next few days, we’re going to take a look at some key Jets players this season centered around a themes. First up, we’ll look at five veterans who will need to have an important impact for this Jets team to fly high in 2014.
Antonio Allen (S) — Everyone will be looking at all the plays that rookie Calvin Pryor makes from the other safety spot, but the ceiling of this secondary might be determined by how much more comfortable Antonio Allen can get in coverage this season. Ryan loves flexible safeties and Allen is solid in run support and is improving against the pass. Allen will likely be deployed around the line, but we saw that he can hang with tight ends in coverage if he has some back-end help. As the Jets look to take on a more Legion of Boom feel, Allen’s athleticism and college role as a hybrid linebacker/safety could help him become play the Kam Chancellor type role for this team.
Quinton Coples (DE/OLB) — Eyes are now turning to Quinton Coples, for right or wrong. Jets great Joe Klecko might not have been the first or last to make comments questioning Coples, but we have to wonder if many will be eating their words come December. It has been two years so far and he hasn’t seen the type of dominance that his linemates Mo Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson saw within their first two years, but there’s been some mitigating circumstances. After posting the highest sack total on the team in 2012 Coples suffered a broken ankle in training camp in 2013 and it significantly slowed his second season production. Also, much was made of Coples “move” to linebacker, but we all know that in Rex’s scheme that’s a formality. No one need worry about QC in man coverage with Julian Edelman from the slot. Coples rushed back to the team as soon as he could and had a slow start in his production but came on strong at the end, posting 3.5 of his 4.5 sacks in the last five games. This season Coples has slimmed down and been training with some excellent players at his position.
Dee Milliner (CB) — If much of the offense’s questions revolve around Geno Smith, the same might be true for Milliner and this defense. Can Milliner play the “shutdown” role at corner that Rex has always had with the Jets since joining the group in 2009? Milliner follows in the shadow of Cromartie and Revis, no small feat. While a lot will be required of Milliner, the utter dominance of the front seven will surely help. While the Jets linebackers were the best part of the front seven early in Rex’s tenure, the overhaul on the D-line will allow Milliner to cover for less time thanks to the Sons of Anarchy pressuring the quarterback.
Geno Smith (QB ) — Though the rest of the world snickers at most mentions of the Jets, it’s hard not to consider Bill Polian’s words from yesterday’s NFL Insiders broadcast on ESPN. Whether national analysts can see it or not, this team is significantly more talented than it has been in the last three years. There were a number of good players already on this team before John Idzik acquired it; the team just needed to cut through the restrictive contracts and rebuild the depth and complementary pieces. Even so, it all seems to hinge on what results the Jets can get from the quarterback spot. Mike Vick is ready to take the reins should the need arise, but Vick’s play is not what it was at earlier points in his career and so Geno Smith is where the team is placing their hope. This might be an ‘inflexion point’ year for Smith; we saw some improvement at the end of last season, but if the needle doesn’t continue to rise for him this year the Jets might return to the drawing board at the QB position next offseason. Smith has tools: an accurate deep pass, good legs to scramble, velocity and touch. But for Smith it will come down to moving the chains and turnovers. With the increased talent, keeping the offense moving shouldn’t be as overwhelming a task as it was in 2013, but Geno has to cut down the turnovers to keep the Jets defense out of insurmountable situations.
Brian Winters (G) — Right now the Jets are logjammed at from the fifth to eighth(ish) spots on the offensive line. The starting center and tackle positions are assured, but the guard spots along with their backups are up for grabs. The Jets have drafted and acquired a number of pieces on the line that they will want to settle on as mid-term backups and potential future starters. Last year Brian Winters struggled much of the season once he took over for Vlad Ducasse, but did show a spark at the end of the season. Can he build on his rookie season and instill the coaching staff with enough the confidence in his play to allow the team to pluck another young backup into a starting role as well?