Time for Jets Draft Choices to Shine

The NFL Draft is an interesting time of year for every team.  Whether players are drafted for immediate impact or are drafted on potential, the time it takes for a drafted player to have an every game impact varies.

But first, a quick laundry list of impacted areas as a result of the Darrelle Revis injury: Corners guarding better receivers than they are used to (Cromartie guarding No. 1’s, Kyle Wilson guarding No. 2’s), safeties having to pay attention to the side of the field Revis would normally be, defensive linemen having to put more pressure on quarterbacks who can now throw sideline to sideline without fear, getting the defense off the field on third down, the offense having to be more efficient with longer drives to keep defense fresh, offense being ready win a shootout against certain teams, Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes, and I am sure there are plenty more points to add to this list.

Many parts of this New York Jets team will be magnified from here on.  A lot will be learned about the quality of personnel on this football team.  In an odd comparison, Revis was a giant makeup kit.  The team will be ‘au naturel’ the rest of the way.

Which brings us back to the drafts since Ryan has been Head Coach (post Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene—2010 and forward).  The effectiveness of Jets’ management and their personnel decisions thus far will be dissected like the frog in your high school science class.  It is not all about when everything is at their best, but how effective plans B, C and D are when something goes wrong (ala 2008 Patriots with Matt Cassel).

Every draft choice may vary in terms of development time, but these Jets draft picks need to have a major impact for the team right now.

Where the light shines brightest: Kyle Wilson—First Round, 29th Overall in 2010.

Sometimes the obvious has to be stated.  Wilson will play as the No. 2 cornerback behind Antonio Cromartie who fills the void at No. 1 left by Revis.  Wilson had an interception in the opener against Buffalo, but hasn’t created much noise since then.  “I just feel like I’m going to go out there and I’m going to continue to do my job,” said Wilson.  “Each year has gotten slower and I think that’s because of knowing what to look for and just having that experience. There’s nothing like being out there on the field.”

First it was Austin Howard, now Kyle Wilson must thrive in the 'next man up' role for the Jets.

Wilson will see Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham this coming Sunday and plenty of Kevin Walter when the Jets face the Houston Texans.  Without judging too early, the date to circle is October 21st when the Jets go to New England.  Let Wilson get acclimated to his role before deciding if he is good enough for the Jets to move forward with him in that position.  A re-evaluation after the Patriots game seems appropriate.

Spotlight No. 2: Bilal Powell—Fourth Round, 126th Overall in 2011.

Heading into this season, talks of ‘ground and pound’ smothered Jets camp as new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano made us feel like Thomas Jones and Tony Richardson were going to be in the backfield.  Through three weeks, the Jets’ running game has been one of the more disappointing—or misleading—part of the season.

After carrying the ball 27 times for 94 yards in the opener, Greene has had 30 carries for 63 yards combined in the past two games (under three YPC for the season thus far).  His three and four yards of plodding leaves fans and coaches wanting more from that position.  But the game against the Miami Dolphins showed us all a little more Powell then we expected to see by the third week of the season.

Powell rushed 10 times for 45 yards (4.5 YPC) and caught two passes for 24 yards.  Yes, he had a dropped pass or two that caused some head-scratching, but realizing the upgrade in speed was easy.  The lack of success from McKnight makes Powell being placed as the second RB an easy decision.  Don’t be surprised to see more of a 50/50 split between Greene and Powell in the coming weeks, and perhaps further down the road, closer to 60/40 in favor of Powell.

Twin Spotlight No. 3 and No. 4: Muhammed Wilkerson—First Round, 30th Overall in 2011.  Quinton Coples—First Round, 16th Overall in 2012.

It’s no secret that the Jets have not had success rushing the passer this season, with or without blitzing.  Wilkerson is coming off his best game of the season against Miami, recording nine tackles with six of them being solo.  But even so, Wilkerson has only one tackle for loss this season and has only five tackles in the previous two games combined.  Putting pressure on the quarterback in a 3-4 scheme is tough without blitzing and Ryan mentioned today that the defense plans to be more aggressive without Revis, but the porous run defense has been alarming. The sack numbers are not there for the defense as a whole, but the individual tackle for loss numbers tell the same story—the defensive linemen aren’t beating their men.  Another deflating quality that we saw against Pittsburgh is that when the Jets have been getting pressure, they haven’t been bringing down their opponent.  The defensive tackling as a whole has been an issue.

Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples must start making an impact for the Jets.

The same goes for Coples.  Coples has been almost silent this season, recording only four tackles in three games.  He had a strong preseason, but as we know with the well-documented offensive preseason struggles resulting in a 45-point outburst against Buffalo, the preseason really doesn’t matter.  It is too the point where you sometimes forget Coples is even on the field at times. Ryan hasn’t played Coples against some of the bigger offensive lines because of his size and if that’s the case, finding positions where Coples can be successful on the field will be a challenge that Ryan has to answer.

It doesn’t seem as if the Jets will ease Wilson into his role.  As mentioned before, Ryan mentioned the coaches might have to be more aggressive with their calls to create pressure with Revis out.  Sounds like Wilson will not babied into his role.  He won’t be on an island, but if more blitzes are being called he won’t have a ton of help.

Wildcard: Joe McKnight—Fourth Round, 112th Overall in 2010.

The news out of Jets practice today was that the former running back will be concentrating on his defensive efforts from this point forward.  McKnight wore the defensive green jersey today in his first practice doing defensive drills with the defensive back group.

“We’ll do that this week with Joe McKnight,” Ryan said on him playing corner.  “He’ll have a role on offense, but we’re also teaching him how to play corner.  Not quite a full-time capacity, but he’s going to be over there a ton in the meetings and everything else.”

“He has the necessary skills to be able to play corner.  He’s got the speed, the size, the athleticism, the ball skills.  Everything you look for in a corner.  So, I don’t think there’s any reason not to think that Joe McKnight couldn’t be a corner.”

McKnight weighed in on the situation that unfolded today.  “Yeah, I was surprised, but it was a decision to make the team better.  I’m all for it.”  McKnight continued, “I have the athleticism, I just have to work on my technique.  There’s a lot of athleticism in the cornerbacks in this league, you have to have the technique take over.”

“This is how I found out, Rex walked into the room and said I was traded, I got traded to the defense.  Ever since then, I’ve just been working on the defense.  I’m not doing a lot of stuff, just keeping it small and really simple for me, so I can go out there and just play.  I just want to play, I’m tired of watching from the sideline.”

Antonio Cromartie chimed in on his secondary teammate, saying, “Right now we are just trying to make sure he knows the basic stuff of our defense.  It seems, the way he plays corner, it comes to him naturally.”

Get used to seeing Joe McKnight on the defensive side of the ball.

Ryan continued, saying “It’s just going to take time, obviously, but I think with Dennis Thurman and Jimmy O’Neil over there, I think we got great teachers of the game.  It’ll be interesting.  I would not bet against Joe McKnight becoming a good corner.”

To what capacity McKnight will be used has not been said, but if any play-making ability comes out of this experiment, what else could you really ask for?  The McKnight experiment is not there to replace Revis, but to close the gap on his absence.  If a McKnight play in the secondary, special teams or offense can swing a game in the Jets favor, it may wind up being the spark that propels the Jets into a playoff spot.  Do not expect McKnight to have an immediate defensive impact.

A true grade of the job management has done evaluating talent will reveal itself throughout this 2012 season.

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