Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Jets strong safety Rontez Miles (45) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Jets won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports*
The New York Jets have many difficult decisions in the offseason. Who will make the cut heading into next season?
With the Super Bowl around the corner, I am sure I can speak for all New York Jets fans when I say, bring on the 2017 season! With offseason moves, tasks and scouting well on their way, we can assume the Jets will be making a ton of changes in order to put the 5-11 season in the past.
As the Jets scouting and coaching staff start to dwindle down the 2017 NFL Draft options, they’re going to need to address who stays on the current roster. Without knowing the needs, how can you better the future?
This means the Jets are going to be making many difficult decisions this offseason. Who stays, and who goes, are the biggest questions among Jets fans. Does one bad season automatically make you a candidate to go? Or, does the coaching staff believe with a strong, healthy offense, players will have a better season in 2017?
What about team morale and inclusion? Do locker room misconduct and off-field shenanigans warrant a player to be released? The truth is we don’t know what the Jets is thinking right now. But, what we do know is, many players are up for new contracts, possible trades or just being released from the team.
One thing is for sure, there were several players that stood out this season, and deserve to remain on the roster heading into next season. So, who are these players? These are the top 10 must keep players to build upon come next season.
Next: 10. Robby Anderson
Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) catches a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Colts defeated the Jets 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
10. Robby Anderson, Wide Receiver
And then, Decker was injured, placed on the injured reserve list and ended his season by Week 3. The only person not completely heartbroken over this was Anderson.
It was his to turn to shine. It was his opportunity to show the world his value; one man’s injury is another man’s audition. This undrafted rookie had a decent season for what it’s worth. He had 42 total receptions for a little under 600 yards. He also had his first NFL career touchdown totaling two for the season.
By no means is that impressive. But, he was dealing with multiple quarterback changes, limited playing time and a banged up offensive line.
He’s tall, a little too thin for my liking but, he is quick and has tremendous speed and movement. He completed the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds.
Anderson has the dedication to succeed. The passion, drive, and athleticism we see from Anderson is something the Jets need both and off the field!
Next: 9. Rontez Miles
Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) drops a pass as New York Jets strong safety Rontez Miles (45) defends during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
9. Rontez Miles, Strong Safety
Last season, Rontez Miles was that random player you didn’t know but, hope you would see a little more of. This season, Miles was given that opportunity when Marcus Gilchrist landed on the injured reserve list.
Week after week I have found myself wanting to see Miles get more playing time. This second-year player has played in every game this season.
Having played in more than a quarter of defensive snaps and at least 80 percent of special team routes, he totaled 57 tackles and two forced fumbles. He’s doubled and even tripled his 2015 statistics. While the Jets seasoned players were missing tackles and showing up late to practices, rookies like Miles took the spotlight.
With no signs of slowing down, Miles is a core member of the Jets defense. He has the stability and consistency needed to bring back the once dominating days of a Gang Green defense.
Next: 8. Muhammad Wilkerson
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates after a blocked pass in the second half at MetLife Stadium. Seattle Seahawks defeat the New York Jets 27-17. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
8. Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive End
No one was more disappointed in Muhammad Wilkerson this season than me. After exiting the last game of the 2015 season with an injury, everyone expected to see a healthy, stronger than ever Wilkerson; we didn’t!
Wilkerson had 58 tackles, four and a half sacks and only one forced fumbled. That’s only one more tackle than Miles and one less forced fumble than him as well. What happened to the man that had the third-most sacks in the league since 2013?
What made the situation worse was that the Jets just gave the man a $86M contract. Wilkerson will get $17M per season for five years with $37M guaranteed.
So why do the Jets keep a player that didn’t live up to his name? There’s already too much invested. The Jets have given Wilkerson a ton of money and time. If they trade Wilkerson, they will be losing out on money overall.
The best option is to release Sheldon Richardson. Not only will he probably demand an obscene amount of money in a new contract but, his off the field shenanigan’s make him a liability.
With that said, it just makes sense to give Wilkerson another season to get it together, and then make decisions on a trade then. The Jets can’t afford to throw away an incredible defensive end because of one bad season.
Next: 7. Bryce Petty
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) throws a pass during warm-ups before a game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
7. Bryce Petty, Quarterback
The Jets owe Bryce Petty an opportunity to grow with the team. Not only was he fed to the wolves this season but, he was injured and underwent surgery on his throwing arm.
After a dizzy rollercoaster of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, Petty got his start after Fitzpatrick blew the season and Smith was placed on injured reserve. Unfortunately, Petty wasn’t prepared for an NFL starting role.
Having played in only six games; started four, Petty ended the season with a little over 800 yards. Petty had three touchdowns and seven interceptions but, still managed to have a 75 percent completion rate.
And now, in the offseason, he’ll be rehabilitating his arm, attending organized team activities and fighting to prove his worth and talent. I am not saying these preparations make him starter material. However, he should be able to continue to work on his craft and grow with the Jets. Obviously, Fitzpatrick and Smith aren’t expected to return in 2017.
With the right starting quarterback, Petty can learn and play from a seasoned quarterback. Let’s not give him the Tebow treatment! Petty is an 2017 must keep.
Next: 6. Bilal Powell
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) runs the ball against Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain (28) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
6. Bilal Powell, Running Back
He finished the season with a little over 720 rushing yards. His athleticism has really proven itself as he also added 388 receiving yards this season. Powell scored three touchdowns and averaged about 5.5 yards per carry.
Powell also had his career best game against the San Francisco 49ers this season. He carried the ball 29 times for 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he added a little under 40 receiving yards on five receptions.
Powell has proven to be an integral part of the Jets offense. His versatility, commitment, and athleticism are extraordinary; any team would be glad to have him.
Although Forte is only entering his second year of a three-year contract, the Jets main workhorse seemed to slow down toward the end of the season. With an on and off injury, Powell could pick up the pieces.
Powell is a needed handcuff to Forte and vice versa! Powell is definitely a must keep in 2017.
Next: 5. Brandon Marshall
5. Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver
What can I really say about Brandon Marshall that hasn’t already been said? Yes, he had an awful season but, do we really let Marshall walk away from the Jets? No!
Marshall ended the 2016 season with less than 800 yards after topping 1,500 in 2015. It was his worst season performance since he was on the Chicago Bears in 2014 where he only had 721 yards on 61 receptions.
But, 2017 will offer Marshall more stability. Decker will be returning which, will take a lot of pressure off of him. The Jets will likely be replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick with a more talented and consistent quarterback, that he will be able to build a relationship.
A new coaching staff is going to evolve as well; offensive coordinator Chan Gailey announced his retirement upon the completion of the season. And, this season was his wake up call; a smack in the face.
Marshall is going to be retiring soon, and I am sure he doesn’t want to be remembered as the Marshall we saw this season. He will look for a comeback season, and I can expect him to be stronger than ever. Keep the man who loves the Jets and has publicly stated he wants to retire with the organization.
Next: 4. Steve McLendon
Sep 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Steve McLendon (99) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. Steve McLendon, Defensive Tackle
Week after week when the defensive line crumbled, McLendon shined. Not only did he outplay some of the Jets veterans but, this newly signed Jets defensive tackle proved his worth and then some.
McLendon recorded 28 tackles, three and a half sacks and a forced fumble in the 11 games he played this season. Not extremely impressive but, it shows he can produce. He currently has a three-year contract with the Jets but, it’s unrestricted which means he can be traded at any moment. As I stated early with Wilkerson, it’s just not in the best interest to do this.
McLendon comes at a lower price than players like Richardson and shows more team moral and inclusion than him as well. If were looking at the bigger picture, McLendon makes sense and should appear on the Jets 2017 roster.
Next: 3. Ryan Clady
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets offensive tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
3. Ryan Clady, Offensive Tackle
Ryan Clady joined the Jets after healing from an ACL tear in 2015. The once Denver Broncos offensive tackle was one of the missing pieces to the Jets offensive line, especially after D’Brickashaw Ferguson announced his retirement.
Overall, he did a good job this season, even with a lacking offense. If we assume the Jets are acquiring a new quarterback, it’s important to keep as many offensive linemen as possible to decrease an entire offensive change.
Center Nick Mangold also had a rough season with injuries. With a healthy Mangold in 2017, the offensive linemen will already have a better advantage in 2017. I don’t want to keep repeating myself but, with Gailey also leaving the organization, it will give him an opportunity to excel, learn and grow with a new offensive coordinator.
Yes, the Jets need a ton of work on their offensive line but, cleaning the house isn’t always a good thing. If anyone deserves another season with the Jets it’s Clady.
Next: 2. Quincy Enunwa
Nov 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (81) catches a touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2. Quincy Enunwa, Wide Receiver
I would argue with anyone who wouldn’t admit Quincy Enunwa was the Jets MVP this season; that’s if they had to pick an MVP with a 5-11 record. But, no matter how pitiful the Jets looked, Enunwa respectably gave it his all.
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He had a little under 860 yards on 58 receptions. He averaged almost 15 yards per completion and completed four touchdowns this season. Now, I am confident he can and will do better. And, compared to Marshall’s 788 yards, 59 receptions, and three touchdowns, I’d say Enunwa is already ahead of the game.
The Jets receiving corps struggled this season. Mainly in part because of the quarterback situation. First, it was Geno Smith, then Ryan Fitzpatrick, back to Smith, and after Smith was injured back to Fitzpatrick again. Then, when Fitzpatrick couldn’t get the job done, they turned to Petty, then back to Fitzpatrick and then Petty again. But wait, Petty got injured giving Fitzpatrick one more chance to prove how terrible he really is.
With all of the back and forth, how could anyone expect the team to do well? They were set up for failure before the season even reached the halfway mark.
But, 2017 is looking good. New coaches, healthy players, a new draft class, etc. If Enunwa can excel with a pitiful team, imagine how he will do with a new and improved one? Enunwa is a key component to the Jets success in 2017.
Next: 1. Todd Bowles
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. Todd Bowles, Head Coach
I understand Todd Bowles isn’t a player, however, after much scrutiny and rage from fans everywhere, I feel the need to remind everyone how important and talented he really is. After all, it was just one bad season.
In his first year as the Jets head coach, Bowles took them to a 10-6 season. Although the Jets didn’t make it the NFL Playoffs, in usual circumstances that record would have been a playoff contender.
Let’s also keep in mind Bowles doesn’t have the final say. Yes, he’s the head coach but, do you really believe Woody Johnson gives him all the power? No! And, Johnson has already stated he’s giving some of his responsibilities and duties to his brother in 2017 which, could be better for Bowles.
The Jets have released several defense coaches and are looking to replace Gailey immediately. All these changes will only better Bowles and his coaching. Not only do the Jets have a great draft pick awaiting them but, the boys will be healthy and ready to rock in 2017. It’s not fair to say a man needs to go after one bad outing!
If everything pans outs correctly, the Jets are in line for a great year. Give Bowles the resources and support he needs to succeed in 2017, and if it still goes bad, then maybe a coaching change is the way to go. But, for now, he is the link the team needs to get over this awful season!