New York Jets: Top 10 X-Factor Players Heading Into 2015


Oct 20, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass while under pressure from New York Jets defensive end Quinton Coples (98) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a 4-12 season, it was no secret that the New York Jets had to bring in new talent and work to improve or tap into some of the talent that they already had. The off season is always a friend of Gang Green. With a new regime in place after 6 seasons of Rex Ryan, this off season has been one of the most eventful in recent memory, for good and bad reasons.

After all the additions the team made, expectations are higher than they were last off season. In New York, expectations are always high, but after a 4-year playoff drought, the fans and the organization are hungry for a return.

New head coach in Todd Bowles preaches accountability on and off the field. For Bowles, the Jets and the fans to be happy, 10 players in particular are key to major success in 2015. Take a look at the top 10 X-Factors heading into the regular season.

Next: 10. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) attempts to pass against the Atlanta Falcons during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

10. Ryan Fitzpatrick

One of the more obvious choices on this list, Jets fans have seen firsthand how the trajectory of a season ebbs and flows with each touchdown and interception. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Harvard-educated, Wonderlic-acing, beard-flaunting 11-year veteran. As the top signal caller for an NFL franchise, Fitzpatrick has never led his team into the playoffs. Thanks to an apparent friend of Rex Ryan IK Enemkpali, the Jets are left to find out if the 12th time is the charm.

Fitzpatrick has experienced a fair share of ups and downs while in the league. In 2011, thinking they both had found their match, the Bills locked up their No. 1 quarterback by signing him to a 6-year, $59 million dollar contract. After starting 5-2 that season, the Bills were reasonable to believe that their long playoff drought was finally going to end. Their playoff hopes – along with Fitzpatrick’s viability as the No. 1 guy – went out the window after they imploded and finished 1-8 over their final 9 games.

Has Fitzpatrick’s ability been unfairly characterized by the Bills’ self-destruction? Overall, as a starter, Fitzpatrick is just 33-55-1. The Jets regular season win percentage since 2005 is .456, while Fitzpatrick’s win percentage since 2005 is .370. Cause for concern? Maybe, because the Jets didn’t field all-pro quarterbacks in those years (besides Brett Favre). Of course, the teams Fitzpatrick played for weren’t world-beaters either. Fitzpatrick has played well in stints, but for the Jets to succeed, he needs to succeed as well.

Next: 9. Nick Folk

Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets kicker Nick Folk (2) reacts after missing a field goal at the end of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets 27-25. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

9. Nick Folk

The only position where there truly has not been any form of a competition for the Jets is at the kicker position. Nick Folk followed up a superb 2013 season in which his conversion percentage on field goals was 92% with a subpar 2014 season. Much like some of the other players that the Jets will be relying on this season, he has had his highs and lows. As the top kicker in Dallas in 2009, Folk made only 64% of his field goal attempts – an awful rate for a top kicker.

That begs the question, why was there no competition, or at least another kicker brought in for camp to push Folk? In this system of constant competition, why was Folk not at least thrown into a kickers’ version of the 2014 heated battle between Geno Smith and Michael Vick? That question appears unanswerable, but it may be something we ask if Folk starts sailing kicks wide right.

With the extra points being moved back, the kicker becomes even more important. While a move back to the 15-yard line shouldn’t pose a challenge to your average kicker, the pressure situations that arise will be something to watch in a game where every point means so much. Folk should be able to stand all the challenges, as his track record has shown. That is why he was the only guy in camp this year.

Next: 8. Demario Davis

Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs the ball against New York Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis (56) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

8. Demario Davis

Every year, 26 year old linebacker Demario Davis improves his game. He is known as one of the hardest workers on the team. Often a forgotten man on a team of defensive studs, Davis has to establish his presence. The Jets core of linebackers is aging, and they need to look to Davis to pass the torch to.

Davis must produce at a high level, not only for the Jets, but for himself as well. Big money will be coming in the off season if he has a breakout season. If he doesn’t, the Jets may be looking for someone to give him some relief at the position. Davis had 116 tackles last season, good for 13th among all players in the league, putting him in an elite category.

Only two teams had two players in the top 15 of tackles, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Jets. That’s somewhat surprising for a team that had 4 wins, but also not surprising since someone has to bring down players when they’re running right through you. With just 3.5 sacks, Davis’ tackles seemingly were not very valuable.

Davis’ importance will be amplified due to the presence of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in the secondary. This could create a Seahawks-like effect where teams choose to run the ball right up the middle, taking their chances against the linebackers rather than test an all-pro secondary.

Next: 7. Jace Amaro

Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) scores a touchdown defended by Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

7. Jace Amaro

One of the famed “Idzik 12,” Jace Amaro did not produce quite up to expectations in his rookie season. At 6’5”, it was thought that Amaro would be Geno’s version of the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. Instead, Amaro was more known for dropping passes than he was catching them. This is something the Jets knew when they drafted him based on his track record at Texas Tech, but they didn’t know how it would play out in the NFL.

Before the 2014 season, as stated in a report by Brian Costello of the New York Post, one player taunted Amaro in training camp, saying that he “can’t catch a cold,” as the Jets currently have Jeff Cumberland as the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart. While Cumberland is deserving of a starting role, no good offense has only one tight end that they feature.

The Jets will need to use Amaro in some capacity. You can’t leave a 6’5” target on the sidelines, and the Jets don’t plan to leave him there. According to Costello of the New York Post once again, reports out of camp say that Amaro will be used as an H-back . This could provide a wrinkle to the Jets’ offense that hasn’t been seen before. If they’re successful, Amaro could be not only an X-Factor, but a major one at that.

Next: 6. Quinton Coples

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton (18) throws a pass as New York Jets outside linebacker Quinton Coples (98) reaches to block it during the second half at Ford Field. Bills beat the Jets 38-3. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

6. Quinton Coples

Even though he was drafted in 2012, it seems like Quinton Coples has been around since Joe Willy Namath, and he hasn’t done a whole lot in that time. With just 50 total unassisted tackles in that span, Coples needs to produce, or he may be shown the door.

Coples’ tackle totals are low because he was often used in coverage last year due to the relative inability in the secondary. As reported by Zach Braziller of the New York PostCoples is expecting much bigger totals for himself.

For a guy running low on chances, you wouldn’t expect him to say the “Sky’s the limit” when talking about the 2015 season. Of course, Coples is a product of Rex Ryan, so he may just be echoing some of his former coach’s now infamous bravado. Maybe Coples is right. It’s not unusual for certain players to break out in a new system, and now with help behind him in the secondary, much of the front seven will be unleashed. This may give Coples a chance to boost his numbers, and his impact. The Jets need guys like Coples on the outside to set the edge, so his time to shine is now.

Next: 5. Leonard Williams

May 8, 2015; Florham Park, NY, USA; New York Jets rookie defensive lineman Leonard Williams (62) runs drills during rookie minicamp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

5. Leonard Williams

Understandably so, Leonard Williams will be a defining pick of the Mike Maccagnan era. With needs at just about every position besides the defensive line, the Jets used the 6th pick in the 2015 draft to add to their already stacked core of lineman. With the “Sons of Anarchy” featuring Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison already in place, adding Williams seemed not only unnecessary, but questionable at best.

In college, Williams was often double-teamed, leading to lower stats than you would expect for a top pick. This did not diminish his value or potential. It is doubtful that on a line full of quality players that Williams would see too many double teams. This could put Williams in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year if he plays the majority of the snaps.

In hindsight, factoring in Richardson’s off-the-field issues as well as Wilkerson’s injury and contractual issues, the pick of Williams may save the Jets season. If Williams produces up to his pre-draft value, Richardson or Wilkerson may become expendable, considering the Jets have many other pressing needs at the time.

Next: 4. Buster Skrine

Nov 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Buster Skrine (22) celebrates on the sidelines during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns won 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

4. Buster Skrine

Two of the biggest names on the Jets’ roster for the 2015 season are Revis and Cromartie. With two of the top 5-10 cornerbacks in the league on the same defense, teams are going to essentially have to pick their poison when it comes to which guy they are going to target on offense.

According to Mike Renner of, Buster Skrine was one of the worst free agent signings of 2015:

This one didn’t make sense at the time, but made even less sense after the Jets signed Antonio Cromartie for an even more lucrative deal just days later. Performance aside, they paid Skrine the 15th-most guaranteed money (four-year, $25m, $13m guaranteed) of any cornerback in the league to come in and be the Jets’ nickel corner. That’s bad business from the outset.

His best game last year came against the Bengals in Week 10, where he picked off two passes. The Jets aren’t looking to make Skrine a top guy in their schemes, but against pass-heavy offenses or if either Cromartie or Revis were to get injured (knock on wood), the 26 year old corner would more than likely be called upon to go man-to-man with a receiver on the outside. The Seahawks defense is successful because they have a lot of depth in their secondary. How well Skrine plays this year will be a factor if the Jets want to compare themselves to the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom.

Next: 3. Devin Smith

Jul 30, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Devin Smith (84) during first day of training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

3. Devin Smith

One of the top needs listed for the Jets to address in the off season was the wide receiver position. While Eric Decker is a high quality receiver, he is not perceived as your prototypical No. 1 guy. This is not to say Decker isn’t quality, but he isn’t a speedster who is going to grab the ball from opposing corners when jockeying for position in the end-zone, despite being 6’3”.

That being said, the Jets used their second round pick to snag Devin Smith, a wide receiver from the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. In his draft profile, Smith is compared to DeSean Jackson, who may not have the size, but certainly has the wheels and the athleticism to tangle with any top-flight cornerback. The Jets are looking for the same out of Smith. While he suffered a rib injury during the preseason, when he returns healthy, expect a role for Smith on the Jets’ offense. They did not use a second-round pick on a guy they didn’t expect to have an impact.

Jeremy Kerley’s spot on the team is in jeopardy because there are thoughts that the Jets may use Brandon Marshall and Smith on the outside, with Decker playing in the slot. If this is truly their plan, Smith becomes an integral part of the offensive success of the Jets if he is able to come back from his injury issues. His injury may put those plans on hold, but if he’s healthy, he’ll need to be ready to make an impact immediately.

Next: 2. Brandon Marshall

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs with the ball during the first half of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

2. Brandon Marshall

Speaking of outside deep threats, when Brandon Marshall joined the Jets, he instantly became one of the most polarizing figures on the team, for a variety of reasons. In recent years, Marshall has undergone somewhat of a personal reconfiguration, changing his behavior on and off the field through his own recognition of his problems. The Denver Broncos essentially tossed him by the wayside, leading to subsequent stints in Miami and Chicago. While his time in Chicago was mostly successful, the end to last season left the Bears wondering if they should start from scratch.

After seasons of approximately 1,500 and 1,300 receiving yards, Marshall only had 61 receptions for 721 yards. There were questions about his relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler, and some of Marshall’s old behaviors appeared to attempt to present themselves again. Marshall started his time as a Jet by acquiescing himself to his teammates, especially Geno Smith. The pair even were roommates, and confided in one another.

With Geno out of the picture for a while, we have to wonder what the dynamic between current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and his projected No. 1 target will be. Each of their success hinges on one another. Marshall has played with quality quarterbacks (for the most part) his entire career, while Fitzpatrick has not had too many quality top-flight wide receivers at his disposal on offense in his years as a starter. If either are going to be successful, they are going to have to rely on one another, on and off the field.

Next: 1. Chris Ivory

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs with the ball while Atlanta Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed (56) attempts to tackle him during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Ivory

The recent history of the Jets’ running game is well documented. Everyone from Thomas Jones to LaDanian Tomlinson to Chris Johnson has put on the Green and White in recent years, with varying levels of success among them. The last 1,000 yard rusher the Jets had was Shonn Greene in 2012, with 1,063. The Jets strategy with the running game in recent years has been to use a running back by committee game plan, with two or three guys sharing the reps somewhat equally.

Chris Ivory has been the Jets’ leading rusher the past two years. Ivory had 198 carries in 2014, compared to Marshawn Lynch’s 280. Out of guys who had more than 150 carries, Ivory ranked 17th among all rushers in 2014 in yards per carry. Someone ranked higher on that list was now-former teammate Chris Johnson.

Ivory will be asked to carry the majority of the load for running backs on the Jets. At 27, he is at a prime age for his position, and the Jets need him to utilize his aggressive running style to bully opposing defenses and keep them off balance, which will help the passing game. With a shaky quarterback situation, I don’t think the Jets would mind a year like Jones had in 2009 (331 carries, 1,402 yards). That year went relatively well for the Jets, and if Ivory could have a similar effect, he will go down as the top X-Factor this upcoming season.

Next: New York Jets: Todd Bowles needs to refocus his team

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