The New York Jets take on the Cincinnati Bengals in their first on-field competition of 2012. Here’s what you should be look for.
Friday @ 7:30 PM EST NFL Network
New York Jets
- Antonio Allen - Defensive MVP! He’s a lengthy safety that can be a force in the box, but also displays the hips to drop into coverage and stick with receivers like a corner. He will prove to be a great value for the Jets, as he lasted until the seventh round. I’ve been impressed with Allen for quite some time and even listed him in the top 5 of my safety prospect rankings.
- Tim Tebow & Mark Sanchez - You can’t talk about the Jets and not mention Tebow / Sanchez. When Tebow was placed on the trade market, the Jets were the first team to come to mind for me. He’s exactly what Rex Ryan wants. He can lead the team with Shonn Greene to the #1 rushing attack, protect the ball, and control the time of possession. Ryan just wants an offense that allows the defense to win games. Tebow provides that. For Sanchez, he just has to protect the ball. He can’t afford turnovers.
- Aaron Maybin & Ricky Sapp - Most people, including myself, felt that the Jets may look to draft an outside linebacker early in this past April’s draft. Obviously, they didn’t. Maybin and Sapp are the reason why. The team is comfortable with this young, pass rushing duo. They will be relentless in this game and either one may actually beat Allen for the defensive MVP.
- Quinton Coples & Muhammad Wilkerson - Instead of outside linebacker, the Jets drafted another five technique in the first round. They selected Wilkerson in the first round of 2011 and Coples in the first round this year. Coples best fit is as a five technique. He played defensive tackle and defensive end while at UNC. The big question leading up to the draft was what position do you draft him for. Giving him to Rex Ryan and putting him in the same unit as Wilkerson is exactly what the Jets need. New York’s front office has been buzzing about Muhammad this whole off-season.
- Stephen Hill - New York needs Hill to become a star. He was one of the riskiest players and the deepest position in the draft. His risk factor actually goes up due to having Sanchez and Tebow as his two quarterbacks. I compare Hill to Torrey Smith for the Ravens who had a solid rookie season last year. They both are bigger receivers and they depend too heavily on their size + speed combination. At best, I believe Hill puts up stats that are on par with what Smith did last year and he gets them in the same manner. New York will depend on him to stretch the field and open up the running game underneath.
- Other Notes - Dustin Keller will need to be ready this year. The offense will be more conservative with the exception of Hill’s deep shots. Keller will have to be a given underneath and make sure to move the chains. Someone will have to step up at the right tackle position. In a perfect world, Jeff Otah would have passed his physical and the Jets’ quarterbacks would have lived happily ever after. It’s not a perfect world and Tebow’s blindside will be covered by Wayne Hunter during the season with Mario Williams looking to bury him.
- Marvin Jones - MVP! The spot for the #2 receiver in Cincinnat is up for grabs. It may go to someone other than Marvin Jones, but make no mistake about it, Jones is the second best receiver in Cincinnati. He’s a faster Brandon Lloyd. Different receivers adjust to the NFL at different paces. Jones may take longer than other rookies to adjust, but when it’s all said and done, he will rise to the top. He should see some favorable match ups in this game and show some of his potential.
- Devon Still & Brandon Thompson - It may seem silly to talk about two rookie defensive tackles, especially when they are on the same team as Domata Peko and Geno Atkins, but the Bengals picked up two starter, quality defensive tackles in this draft. Thompson and Still were in college backfields as soon as the ball was snapped in college. Still had too much down time and needs to work on putting together full games and a full season. Thompson was at his most disruptive when he was at the one technique at Clemson. This rotation of fresh defensive tackles will be deadly for opposing offensive lines.
- Jermaine Gresham & Orson Charles - These two are at different places in their careers, but both need to take a huge step forward in their progression. Gresham needs to close the gap (statistically) to his draft mates, Jimmy Graham & Rob Gronkowski. Orson needs to stay out of trouble and work his way up the depth chart to the level of being Gresham’s version of Aaron Hernandez.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Bernard Scott - Green-Ellis won’t have the luxury that he had in New England. He will need to transition into more a traditional back. He can still be the effective short yardage / goal line back, but he needs to fill more of a full-time role. Bernard Scott will also take on more carries and has to do better than 3.5 yards a carry.
- Taylor Mays & George Iloka - Before all of the recent injuries, the Bengals had the deepest, most talented cornerback group in the NFL. The safety group is where the questions really are in the secondary. Taylor Mays has always been natural gifted, but if he can prove that he knows his assignment and becomes more disciplined, then he would be ideal for this defense. While Iloka has a lot of work to do before he can pass Reggie Nelson on the depth chart, it’s scary to image the 6’3 improved Mays and 6’4 Iloka roam the same secondary as this group of cornerbacks.
- Other Notes - Kevin Zeitler is the next to come out of Offensive Lineman U. He’s NFL ready and will help balance this unit out on the inside, with Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith on the outside. Andy Dalton is more than happy to welcome Zeitler to the starting unit. Dalton has to show his own personal growth. The whispers coming out of Cincinnati is that the Red Rifle has been working to put more kick in his gun this off-season. If Dalton can add better velocity to his impressive accuracy and mental toughness, then the Bengals offense could actually help the defense more than they did in their 2011 playoff run. Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Mohamed Sanu, and Jordan Shipley should all join Green and Jones on the 53 man roster, as I expect the team to keep 6 receivers. This young group can develop with Dalton for years to come and if just half of them pan out, with Gresham and Charles…geez!
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock