NY Jets: Calvin Pryor is most improved player of 2015

Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) rallies fans against the Cleveland Browns during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) rallies fans against the Cleveland Browns during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets put up a memorable season in 2015 that saw many players step up. Free safety Calvin Pryor was easily the most improved player for Gang Green.

I sat down this weekend in more normal fashion to write. Over the years, I found  it necessary to setup a little “office” in the attic to get away from the family distractions when I write. It’s nothing fancy, a simple desk, a laptop and the desk top I use to write. I’ve moved my stereo up there as well, I enjoy listening to my blues music as I gather my thoughts. It’s a cozy spot to sit and write, the morning sun shines through the window above my desk, and I have a view of a beautiful city park across the street.

Anyway, I sat down to write and I began the process of finding a topic that would move me to cover here. This weekend became a weekend of looking back at the 2015 season. I didn’t expect to go this route when I started, but I thought it might be fun to look at some of the players that really improved in 2015 leading up to the one that I feel improved the most.

The case could be made for many players on this squad, to be named the most improved player in 2015. You could easily make a case for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the guy stepped in for an injured Geno Smith and never looked back. Fitzpatrick had a career year for himself, setting marks in his own career and breaking some Jet marks along the way. Fitzpatrick had a huge year for the Jets, but he fell short of taking the title in my book.

You could make a case for wide receiver Brandon Marshall as well. All you have to do is compare his stats from 2014 to the ones he posted for the Jets this year. The difference was amazing. Marshall has been an extreme talent throughout his entire career, but this season was likely his best in quite some time. Marshall made a strong case for himself, but again he fell a bit short of making the grade in my selection.

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Running back Chris Ivory had his first 1,000+ yard season of his career for the Jets in 2015. Ivory ran hard and made some vicious hits along the way as well.

There is no doubting the talent Ivory possesses, a 1,000+ yard season is hardly anything to sneeze at. Yet, he slowed with injuries and the second half of the season wasn’t nearly good as the first. Ivory improved this year, but not enough to take the title in my book.

I thought long and hard about wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. The second year wide receiver lost his entire rookie season due to injury, but came on this year. Enunwa was asked to block as a tight end early in the season by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. To his credit, Enunwa didn’t stop there, he developed nicely as the season progressed and Gailey took notice.

As a result, Enunwa was given more reps and found himself being worked into the Jets’ first string group. Enunwa’s development was impressive this year. He still has a way to go as he improved and I considered him for the title seriously, but in the end, I just couldn’t give him the nod.

I considered a few other players in my review, and I’ll mention them briefly. Offensive lineman Brian Winters should get a big shout out for his success stepping in for Willie Colon. Others included were Bilal Powell, Marcus Williams, Lorenzo Mauldin and Darrin Walls. They all made contributions, and showed they can play but none were close to my selection.

The most improved player for the Jets in 2015 in my book is Calvin Pryor. It really wasn’t a tough choice, but I needed to go through the process to be absolutely be sure who should get the title. Pryor made the most sense to me since his improvement was substantial and his contributions were significant.

Pryor was taken by the Jets in the first round of last year’s draft. Then head coach Rex Ryan claimed he was hand picked by himself and predicted great things from the young rookie. Pryor measures out as 5’11” and tips the scales at 208 pounds. He played his college football at the University of Louisville, where he was a standout talent.

Unfortunately for Pryor, his rookie season turned into a disaster. The young safety was thrust into a starting role and he struggled mightily. Ryan used him in a variety of ways in his rookie campaign, in an attempt to find a way to get him to contribute, but to little avail. He simply wasn’t ready and it was apparent to even the novice eye that Pryor was in over his head in 2014. The game was moving much faster than Pryor was used to and it was obvious he struggled to fully understand what Ryan was trying to do.

Sep 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) makes an interception against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I was highly critical of Pryor last season. He offered Jet fans flashes of his abilities in 2014, but little else. Pryor was often out of position and his coverage skills obviously needed work. Pryor laid some hard hits on folks, but he wasn’t very good at tackling either. He took bad angles on the football and often got lost in the middle when trying to stop the run game. Ryan ultimately benched Pryor, but the Jets weren’t done with him just yet.

This season saw Pryor come out and impress in camp early. He was prepared and appeared to have a much better grasp of what Todd Bowles wanted to do with his defense this time around. Pryor found his fit and things developed from there. The summer saw him taking much better angles to the football and Pryor started to play his game at a much better speed. His tackling technique had improved and his hard hitting style was evident.

Intangibles are nice to look at, but a majority of fans that I know,  base their decision on individual players solely on their stat sheet. To that end, I compared Pryor’s stats for the past two seasons. In 2014, Pryor  appeared in all sixteen games for the Jets, it wasn’t the best of stats, but he managed to put up 60 tackles, 35 of them were solo tackles and he assisted in another 25. In 2014, Pryor also added two pass defenses and a half of a sack as he also had two run stuffs along the way.

In 2015, Pryor looked like an entirely different player than he did the year before. He took better angles, played faster and played smarter football as well. The results were evident, as Pryor’s stat sheet just kept going up during the course of the season. He had a fantastic year and was playing well in all aspects of his game.

As a result, he increased his tackle totals to 69 this season, 50 of which came on solo efforts while he was credited with 19 assists this past year. Pryor didn’t record a sack in 2015, but he improved in coverage, posting six pass defenses and two interceptions. Pryor also forced a fumble and had six run stuffs for the Jets on the year.

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Pryor still has a ways to go in his development and that should be good news for fans. Pryor possesses the skills to be a long term solution for the Jets at safety and playing under Bowles is a great place for him to develop. His angles to the ball will still need to improve and he still needs to work on not being lazy with his tackling form, but it was evident this year that his game had taken a giant leap.

Am I wrong? Do you have someone you’d like to give the award of “most improved” to? Let me hear your thoughts so please, leave me a comment below and Let’s Talk Jet Football!!