Jets need young players to grow up fast

By on July 17, 2014

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The Jets are fortunate to have plenty of young starters who still might have their primes ahead of them. That’s a good sign for the future, but it also means they are relying on quite a few players with only a year or two under their belts. Not everyone is Sheldon Richardson, who performed well right away, and many need time to develop. Here are some youngsters the Jets need to step up this season:

GENO SMITH, QB
Have to start here, right? So much, for this season and beyond, rests on how Smith plays in his second season in the NFL. Michael Vick is available as a safety net, but if Smith can become a viable starter it could not only vault the Jets above mediocrity but also allow the front office to focus on the rest of the team in future offseasons. Of course, that’s a big “if,” and should Smith fail to progress this season, it will send GM John Idzik scrambling to look elsewhere for the Jets’ next quarterback.

DEE MILLINER, CB
After Smith, there’s no one the Jets need to improve more than Milliner. He was a major liability on defense last season, giving up 770 yards to receivers he was covering, according to ProFootballFocus.com, which was tied for 13th-worst in the league. With Antonio Cromartie gone and Milliner now playing opposite the injury-prone Dimitri Patterson, he will have even greater responsibility in his second season.

QUINTON COPLES, DE/OLB
Coples looked like he was figuring it out at the end of his rookie season in 2012, but that momentum didn’t carry into last season. The Jets moved him into a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker role and he was slow to adjust. Coples was perhaps the most underwhelming part of the Jets’ otherwise-dominant front seven. Gang Green is probably banking on more than the 4.5 sacks he put up last season.

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BRIAN WINTERS, G
Winters, a third-round pick in 2013, had to learn a lot last season not just as an NFL rookie but as a guard, period. He moved over from tackle, where he played at Kent State, so there was always going to be an adjustment period. That adjustment proved to be rocky as he was the weak link on the offensive line, so the Jets will be hoping he brings more to the table in his second season.

DEMARIO DAVIS, LB
Davis had a solid first two seasons in the league, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. His speed is an asset at inside linebacker — evident in his game-saving tackle on Vincent Jackson in Week 1 against the Bucs last year — but he hasn’t become the run-stopping force the Jets would probably like. Davis doesn’t lack charisma, so if he can be a star on the field he can be a defensive leader.

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