Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets put up one of their best seasons in franchise history in 2015. It couldn’t have been done without their top players exceeding expectations on a consistent basis.
The Jets should have a chip on their shoulder heading into next season due to their unfortunate season-ending loss to the Buffalo Bills that kept them out of the NFL Playoffs. They had everything in their hands to earn their ticket to the postseason by winning but unfortunately fell short when it mattered most.
To end the season 10-6 is an impressive feat considering just how terrible the Jets were in 2014. On top of a winning record, these top five players also helped create quite the buzz during home games at MetLife Stadium as fans definitely cheered on and enjoyed all the memorable games they were a part of last season.
From breaking franchise records to even setting NFL ones, the Jets proved with the right veterans, coaches and execution, they were capable of surprising many last season. Many expected them to be better but not many believed they could actually muster up 10 wins and actually have a shot at the playoffs so soon after getting a new head coach, general manager and an infusion of top talent via free agency and last year’s draft.
These top five players definitely stood out the most as without them, the Jets wouldn’t have had the success they enjoyed in 2015.
Next: 5. A true workhorse
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Chris Ivory
Running back Chris Ivory was an instrumental part of the success the Jets enjoyed in 2015. He started off the season with an incredibly hot start which helped the Jets get off to a 4-1 record. He was plowing through defenders and enjoyed the best season of his career so far.
Ivory totaled 1.070 rushing yards on 247 carries for seven touchdowns. Ivory also totaled 217 receiving yards on 30 receptions and a touchdown. Once he was able to achieve close to 100+ rushing yards in a game, the majority of times the Jets would win.
It was a career year for Ivory who definitely pushed the envelope heading into his contract year. Whether it was him going the extra mile to guarantee his next big contract or everything was aligned perfectly for his dominance, there is no questioning the impact Ivory had on the Jets in 2015.
Everyone knew he would be good but Ivory definitely exceeded everyone’s expectations for all the right reasons with his aggressive style of play.
Next: 4. One unbelievable wide receiver
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) celebrates his touchdown catch against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Who in their wildest dreams through that wide receiver Brandon Marshall would put up the kind of season he did? To think, many thought his career in the NFL would be over sooner than later due to him being labeled a locker room diva and cancer if he didn’t get his way.
He was an incredible leader for the Jets since the moment he was acquired and backed everything up on the football field. He helped everyone around him get better and put up some unbelievable statistics along the way.
In 2015, Marshall totaled 1,502 receiving yards on 109 receptions for a career-high 14 touchdowns. He broke several team and NFL records while doing his part in putting the Jets within a game of making the NFL Playoffs.
If it wasn’t for Marshall exceeding expectations, the Jets more than likely wouldn’t have even had the great season they posted.
Next: 3. The team leader in sacks
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) is sacked by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Just like Ivory, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson put up some amazing numbers heading into his contract year. The ongoing talks about how the Jets plan to handle his contract situation will be the talk of the off-season but make no mistake about it, he exceeded expectations nicely in 2015 to earn a big payday.
Wilkerson totaled 39 tackles and a career-high 12.0 sacks. He was excellent against the run and was one of the top pass rushers on the Jets’ defense. He played aggressively and was a leader on defense while also teaching rookie defensive end Leonard Williams the ropes in honing his craft at the position for the future.
As the season approached, contract talks never really took off as expected. Both sides couldn’t really come to an agreement as Wilkerson decided to put off talks until now in the off-season. While I don’t think a new contract will be done so easily, it’s expected that the Jets will probably end up hitting him with the franchise tag to retain his services.
Wilkerson will absolutely be back next season to pick up exactly where he left off from with the Jets. Either way, he was a big part of all the success the Jets had on defense as they fielded one of the top defensive lines in the NFL thanks to all he brought to the table.
Next: 2. One unreal slot receiver
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) runs after a catch for a first down during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
2. Eric Decker
Make no mistake about it, the Jets wouldn’t have had such a potent offense if it wasn’t for the dynamic duo of Marshall and Eric Decker. Both developed a great synergy to ensure lots of first downs, big plays and of course touchdowns.
Decker in 2015 totaled 1,027 receiving yards on 80 receptions for 12 touchdowns. He scored at least one touchdown in 12 games and was able to always keep those chains moving thanks to his high football IQ and ability to get open at the perfect time.
Many didn’t know what kind of player the Jets would have gotten back when he was a free agent in 2014. Some felt he was a product of having Peyton Manning throwing to him while others felt he would still thrive on another team thanks to his solid skill-set.
Regardless, Decker has only gotten better with every season under his belt with the Jets. Thanks to going back to his more natural role as a No. 2 receiver, he’s been thriving and exceeded expectations nicely in 2015.
Next: 1. The bearded wonder
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. The bearded wonder
Nobody in their wildest dreams thought quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would put up the best season of his entire career with the Jets. Not only was he a true gridiron hero, his leadership skills was the glue to have the Jets be efficient on offense.
Fitzpatrick got his teammates to not only be excited on the football field but just flat out have fun while being successful. In 2015, he totaled 3,905 passing yards on 335 completions for 31 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 59.6% completion rate.
One area that he exceeded expectations in was how he used his high football IQ to secure first downs by getting the job done on the ground. Fitzpatrick would run for daylights to continue key drives that helped the Jets win a few close games last season. Fitzpatrick totaled 270 rushing yards on 60 attempts and yes, he also scored two rushing touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick is easily the top player for the Jets who exceeded all expectations straight into the franchise record books. He now officially holds the record for most touchdowns ever by a quarterback of the Jets at 31 and provided fans everywhere much to smile about in 2015.