New York Jets top 10 players under 25 – Part II

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

As the Jets set to kick off their 2014 season next Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, there are a number of young players that are expected to make a big impact for the team this season. Earlier today we started with the team’s sixth through tenth players under 25 and this post will finish with the top five.

As a note about the full list 1-10, I noticed a few concerns about the Jets not having more starters under the age of 25. There are 20 players under 25 currently on the 53-man roster and most rookies come into the league at age 22 or 23, so the window of available players to pick from is very small as evidenced in this age distribution chart. Had 25-year-olds been included, players like Demario Davis, Damon Harrison, Jeremy Kerley and Antonio Allen all would have been eligible. In fact as you’ll see in the list below, that the Jets have some third and fourth year players under 25 and who are still on the upswing. To me, this shows the real potential for this team in which many in the national media seem to have yet to grasp.

age

What I would say is that the top five players on this list more than make up for any deficiencies at the back half of this top-ten list.

So without further ado, here are the Jets top five players under 25.

quinton-coples-1

#5. LB Quinton Coples

When the 24 year old Coples was criticized this spring by Jet great Joe Klecko for looking like Tarzan “but [playing] like Jane,” the third year Jet never responded to the criticism directly. What everyone forgets is that Coples played the first half of the 2013 season still recovering from a broken foot suffered in the Jets 2013 preseason. Instead of responding to the criticism, Coples used the offseason to focus on his conditioning efforts as the team had asked him to drop weight to play the rush linebacker role. By working in Atlanta with other high-profile NFL players and trainers, Coples lost an astounding 20 pounds — the 6’6″ Coples is now in the 270-275 range with a scant 8.5 percent body fat.

Why was this necessary? To work on the outside the Jets felt Coples needed more speed and stamina. This year the Jets need Coples to provide pressure off the edge, especially with a secondary that might be exposed due to injury right now. With Wikerson, Harrison/Ellis and Richardson in the mix, a speedier Coples will be sure to get some clean hits at the quarterback as well as countless additional pressures. As Coples ably demonstrated last year once he was recovered from his broken foot, he is more than capable of providing the pressure off the edge as well as inside. Coples had 4.5 sacks in 2013, most of which came in the second half. Digging deeper, PFF notes that of Coples 23 QB hurries last year, 14 of them came in the last five games. Now lighter and quicker, Coples is poised to make the leap. Playing among a his cohorts, Coples could easily have his first 10 sack season.

dee-milliner-1

#4. CB Dee Milliner

Cornerback is one of the hardest positions in football to transition from college to pros and while it wasn’t always pretty for Milliner, the transition was most evident during the team’s last four games of the season. Milliner is large and rangy for a corner with great timed (4.37 40 yard dash) speed. Milliner has the height, length and upper-body strength to fight with NFL receivers on any route in the tree. Milliner gets a good press at the line of scrimmage thanks to his strength and has the feet and hip fluidity to keep up with most receivers. Milliner also has good quickness and ability to quickly change direction when necessary.

The Jets first first-rounder got lost during the Sheldon Richardson Show, but Milliner broke up 10 passes in the last two games of the season for the Jets and picked up right where he left off against Andrew Luck and the Colts in the preseason. Unfortunately, immediately thereafter, Milliner sufferred an ankle injury during a training camp practice in early August. Milliner is currently recovering from his high ankle sprain and might not be back to full strength for a while. Even so, along with Calvin Pryor, Milliner will be a key to a re-tooled secondary for the Jets this season.

geno-smith-1

#3. QB Geno Smith

He might only be third on this list, but the play of this 23 year-old might be the single most important factor to how the 2014 season goes for the Jets. Smith’s passes have touch and velocity, when required, and his placement of the football is improving at every level. Capable of firing the football into tight windows, Geno was one of the NFL’s best deep passers in 2013 and might be better able to take advantage of that trait this season. While he can be an effective runner, Smith looks to complete the pass first.

Most of Geno’s rookie season was hard to watch, but in December it looked as if the switch was flipped for Geno. Coming from a spread offense in college proved for a tough transition for Smith, and along with many other 2013 Jets rookies he did his learning on the field. It seemed that Geno Smith might have held too tightly to the notion to not run. His unwillingness to run might have been a key reason to Smith’s early struggles. When Geno was slightly freer with his feet during the second half of the 2013 season, his game rapidly stabilized — as did his decision-making. Geno began using his legs a little more to extend drives and his began trusting his receivers more. Rather forcing passes and taking sacks, those small incremental improvements were all the Jets needed to right the ship and square their record by the end of the season.

While it’s true the Jets played three sagging teams during that stretch, they also suited up against the surging Panthers. Geno might not have done enough to win against one of the league’s best defenses, but he was steady and alert in the pocket and was never rattled. Per ESPN, during the first 13 weeks of 2013 season, Smith was the NFL’s lowest-rated (21.6 QBR) quarterback. Over the last four weeks of the same season, Smith was the league’s second-highest rated (78.9 QBR) trailing only Peyton Manning.

Is that statistic a mirage? This season Smith will have more weapons and experience and will get to prove it one way or another.

sheldon-richardson-1

#2. DL Sheldon Richardson

Sheldon Richardson’s rookie season was like watching a 300 pounder get shot out of a cannon. According to Pro Football Focus, the now 23-year-old Richardson (AKA Boss Hogg) was credited with four defensive stops in his first regular season game against Tampa Bay. By season end, Richardson had 41 stops — second only to one-tenth billionaire J.J. Watt (67) at his position. Shorter and stouter than Muhammad Wilkerson, Richardson has more agility and burst and uses it to devastating effect against slower interior offensive linemen.

Richardson was a key part of the Jets being among the league’s best at stopping the run. Richardson regularly used his speed and athleticism to knife into the backfield and either corral the runner, blow up the blocker in the backfield or redirect the runner’s path to another lineman. Watching Richardson play as a rookie and impact the game so acutely was a key reason as to why he won Defensive Rookie of the Year. That and his Refrigerator Perry style touchdowns. As a rookie, Richardson rushed the ball four times for a total of four yards: two carries were for first downs and the other two were touchdowns. Richardson doesn’t think he’ll be needed to carry the ball again this year, so don’t look for him to vulture touchdowns in the run package this season, but do look for him to use his speed an strength to vulture more than his 3.5 sacks from a year ago.

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#1. DL Muhammad Wilkerson

Wilkerson is entering his fourth year with the Jets and won’t turn 25 until October, so he gets to scrape by the age cutoff and rightfully deserves to be at the top of the list. Still on the rise in a surging unit, it is amazing to think that last year Wilkerson totaled 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 60 tackles. Big, sudden and powerful, Wilkerson is long and strong enough to hold up against the run when he plays the five technique, but he also is quick enough to press the pocket and disrupt the quarterback from wherever the Jets line him up. Wilkerson acts as the focal point for the Jets defensive line, but his athleticism and technique allows him to move around the formation situationally to best take advantage of opponents.

In 2013, Wilkerson did a lot of the dirty work for the Jets defense, paving the way for some of his brethren on the defensive line. Wilkerson often saw double teams due to his versatility and strength, but he still managed to be an impact player. Now with the level of talent around Wilkerson, it seems to matter less who specifically makes the play. The players say the same thing.

“I don’t care who makes the play whether it is me or my brother,” Sheldon Richardson told me at camp in Cortland this summer.

Wilkerson and his battery-mates all buy into the camaraderie that coach Karl Dunbar preaches day-in and day-out to his linemen. Thanks to Dunbar’s influence and Wilkerson’s example, the group’s dynamics much more mirror an offensive line group — a positive sign for how historically good this unit might be by season’s end.

Wilkerson is the unquestioned leader of the Jets linemen and he’s done everything required of him (and more) to be a team player through the questions about his contract status. The players in his unit gravitate to him and copy his dedication and work ethic. We look forward to him being a member of the team for a long time as the Jets consider his next contract. Now that J.J. Watt has set the mark for defensive players, it will be up to the Jets to come up with a structure for Wilkerson’s next deal to keep him in New York well past 25.


Read about the Jets sixth through tenth players under 25.




277 comments
bob
bob

Wow awesome..This  article got me thinking. Jets have done a nice job drafting. These are really good players to build upon. Moving Q to outside linebacker was smart come payday time. While Wilk/Rich patrol the money on the line. Where a few steps away and add another year of experience to it, at being great.  I beleive Geno will come into his own this year adding another play maker..  Nice article BB.  Jets are going in the right direction. Looks like substainible success in the making to me.

Pat d
Pat d

Just saw that Lankster was cut. That doesn't make sense to me.

Pat d
Pat d

The problem with this list is the lack of offensive players on it.

Christopher Wall
Christopher Wall

Record a 30 second video with this in-page-recorder (mobile or desktop) telling us your Jets season predictions to win a pair of tickets to the Jets/Bears game. Video with the most views wins. record here:    http://sportschatvideo.com/CHI-NYJ.html 


-- This is a  new website and a new promotional campaign, as of 10:00 pm on 9/2/14 

nobody has recorded anything yet. Take advantage of the free tickets before the secret gets out.

Isaac Miller
Isaac Miller

Ok so should I trade Reggie Bush for Eric decker? I proposed it already and he accepted. Should I go through with it?

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

Here's Walter Powell's Draft Film Package pretty thorough. From what I saw he's not exceptional but he was a pretty solid player, combine numbers were misleading as he was nursing a bad foot 40 time was 4:63, but his improved vastly in his pro day where his 40 was 4:45. In this film he shows alot of shiftiness ala Kerley perhaps with a little more straight line speed, good hands, good route runner, and creates seperation. However I think he was brought over here because he was a beast in college when it came to special teams, excellent Kick Returner and Punt Returner and gunner.


http://youtu.be/3YrUqgCEL1o

jaygo
jaygo

Not loving Vick doing a spot with Francesa.  Hard to believe that is team approved.  First misstep for Vick.  Guard up.

joemustgo
joemustgo

FWIW, Don Banks has us going to the playoffs. I guess not all the local and national scribes are hopelessly addicted to the circus narrative.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Pat d Their five best offensive players - Decker, Ivory, Johnson, Brick and Mangold are all over 25 but not ancient.

Pat d
Pat d

F the ice bucket challenge

Paul Samuels
Paul Samuels

@Isaac Miller I would do it, honestly. Decker is the clear #1 option and will get plenty of targets. Bush will still be really good, but Joique Bell is sneaking up on him for targets 

Tequila Joe
Tequila Joe

@Isaac Miller Don't do it. I like Decker but that is a one sided trade, not in your favor. Bush (if he stays healthy) could have just as many receptions as Decker this year plus his rushing yards.

RockyMountainJet
RockyMountainJet

@Pablo Bruno Having watched the first half of the video, I think Powell can make an immediate impact on special teams. Walt looked elite as a gunner and very comfortable as a punt returner, although he snagged a few inadvisable balls. In kick returns he didn't really show the extra gear, and tends to get by with shakes and jukes, until he has to attempt to outrun the final man. His lone TD as a KR was impressive.  This move could spell trouble for Hakim or Salas. I like the idea of Hakim and Powell as the main gunners, unless Rex has someone else in mind since Lankster is gone. 


I can see why this kid was drafted in the 6th round, and I'm surprised the cardinals thought he would pass through waivers. I only watched the first two games of him as a WR, and that was of him in 2012. I'll need to watch more later.


Bent
Bent moderator

@jaygo It was NOT team approved, but no big deal.  The team commented that they don't mind.

Disgruntled Jets Fan
Disgruntled Jets Fan

I don't think it was team approved, but then he may not be aware fatcessa hates the jets (and vice versa).

davem
davem

Eat a fat d*ck Hank

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples Wrong blog, Hank. You meant to post this on your favorite team's blog, not here. 

Pat d
Pat d

You are right. My point was that the Jets have not been successful in drafting offensive weapons.

Pat d
Pat d

It is a good idea to avoid Jets players in fantasy football

Isaac Miller
Isaac Miller

That's what I'm thinking man its a tough one.

Isaac Miller
Isaac Miller

Idk man his stats last year rushing 506 yrs 4 tds.. 50 catches 500 yards 3 tds.. Decker can reach 80 catches 8 tds. Bush will lose carries to joque bell. Also stafford has more recievers now in Ebron and tate. Decker is a number one now if geno can play like they have been saying he can then he will catch 80, 8-9 touchdowns..

I also have ellington and martin at rb. So bush is flex.. Demariyus Thomas and garcon and receiver.

Isaac Miller
Isaac Miller

Idk man he's not insanely good. 1006 yards rushing, 4 tds, 54 catches for 506 yrs 3 tds. And they got more targets for stafford. Ebron, tate. And he will lose more carries to joque bell.

Decker can get 80 catches 8 tds this year easy. If geno has a good year. And he's a number 1 option. I also have Martin and ellington at rb so bush is flex. At receiver I have demariyus Thomas and garcon.

Bent
Bent moderator

@RockyMountainJet @Pablo Bruno


He did play at a lower level though, which means looking elite on special teams at that level might not translate.


As noted in my BGA I was impressed with his kick returns and he did show some promise in kick coverage.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Pat d Yeah, that's true.  While you'd like that balance, they've been so good at drafting defensive players that hopefully this can still work out.


With any luck, the likes of Amaro and Saunders (plus continued improvements from Geno) will swing this in the other direction).

bob
bob

@Pat d 

I think Geno and Amaro a both great pics in the 2nd round. Easly could have been 1st round pics and this year these two will prove that.

Pat d
Pat d

Maybe, maybe not. That is Geno.

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples That's not a very funny joke given what happened earlier today, Hank. Dial it down. 

bob
bob

@Bent @Pat d 

I was thinking those 2nd rounders Geno/Amaro Jets got lucky with those two a little.

bob
bob

Maybe a 1st round pick on offense come draft time. However with the staff the Jets currently have right now. Im starting to think the feel more comfortable and more confident at drafting a defensive player that an offensive player. therfore drafting a playmaker that will make noise in his first year on the offensive side od the ball remains to be seen.

jdb4
jdb4

@Hanknaples @Brendan 

Hank, normally your rhetoric is comically tolerable.  Your ISIS comment crossed a line.  I sincerely wish leprosy upon your hands

Isaac Miller
Isaac Miller

I am doing so. Think I'm going to get decker. I think he will have a monster year. And I get another reason to cheer for him because I watch every game and could follow him easier. It'll just be more fun with decker on my team.