Rich Cimini does his projections on who the most five improved Jets will be. Take a look:
1. Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end — He started 16 games as a rookie, played in 59 percent of the defensive snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and held up reasonably well — considering he had no offseason because of the lockout. Look for Wilkerson to take a big step forward, especially as a pass rusher. The coaches are thrilled with his progress.
2. Jeremy Kerley, wide receiver/punt returner — In a quiet way, the second-year receiver demonstrated the ability to get open. He was on the field for 241 pass plays, according to PFF, finishing with 29 catches — one reception per 8.3 plays. That was the second-best mark among the receivers and tight ends, second only to Dustin Keller. Like Wilkerson, Kerley will benefit from a full offseason.
3. Kenrick Ellis, nose tackle — He has to get better, right? Ellis was totally lost last season as a rookie, admitting to me last week, “It was my fault for not picking up the scheme.” The second-year lineman told me he has dropped 10 pounds (he played last year at 345) and feels like a different person. One problem: He has to serve a minimum of 45 days in jail, which will hurt his conditioning and cost him the first four days of training camp.
4. Joe McKnight, running back — After two seasons as a kickoff returner (and a good one), McKnight will get a chance to spread his wings. LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, so he’ll get first dibs at the No. 2 job at running back. Preparing for the role, he gained 15 pounds to help withstand the wear and tear. McKnight has the talent, it’s just a matter of him maintaining focus and discipline.
5. Bart Scott, linebacker — Yeah, the older guys can make our list, too. After a poor 2011, Scott seems rejuvenated. He dropped significant weight and you can see it on the field, as he’s moving better in coverage. Coordinator Mike Pettine told me Scott has lost almost 20 pounds; that means he played north of 250 last season, which explains why he looked so slow.
Take a look at the posts by our guy Drew Ferraro. His top 5 was pretty close. Gotta hand it to him, nice job.