The forgotten weapons of the Jets heading into next season

Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jalin Marshall (89) reacts before the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Giants won, 21-20. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jalin Marshall (89) reacts before the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Giants won, 21-20. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Jets might be heading into a rebuilding year but here’s a look at the forgotten weapons that should make next season, not such a terrible one.

At this time of year, many fans of the New York Jets are focused on the free agency period and the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. It’s an exciting time of year for the Green and White faithful, as they await new talent to be added to the team’s roster. Through it all, sometimes a player already on the team gets lost in the shuffle. The forgotten weapons of the Jets I like to refer to them as.

These players can be on the edge of coming into their own, or those that have been on the roster and haven’t produced due to injuries. As fans, we often get focused on the star players on the roster and lose track of some of the underlying potential talent that exists. In a rebuilding year, teams hope some of those players will step up to aid the process.

Of course, the first name that comes to mind is Darron Lee. The rookie inside linebacker struggled for a good part of last season. At times, Lee looked like he was lost, unaware, and befuddled. He did show signs of development as the season went on, however. With another camp under head coach Todd Bowles system, fans are hoping for a break out season. Now, Lee isn’t exactly a forgotten player, but he’s one of those players that both the team and the fans hope will step up.

Next up is Deon Simon, a 6’4″/332-pound nose tackle out of North Western State. Simon is just 26 and was taken by the Jets in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The Jets coaching staff are reportedly high on Simon, and in a limited role last season, he began to show why. If he can take the next step this summer, he’d be a force in the middle for the Jets already solid defensive front.

Forgotten by many, and written off by more than a few, Devin Smith returns, to try and prove his NFL critics wrong. Smith, in case you have forgotten is a 6’1″/199 pound speedy wide receiver taken by the Jets in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Smith only managed 10 games in his rookie season before injury ended his season. After the disappointing start to his career, Smith once again spent a season on injured reserve status, only appearing in a single game in 2016. The label “bust” has been applied to Smith, and this is likely his last chance to prove he can stay healthy and produce. If he can, he would offer a nice option for the Jets quarterback, whomever that turns out to be.

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Dexter McDougle is another former draft pick that has failed to make good. McDougle is a 5’10″/195-pound cornerback that was taken in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. McDougle spent his rookie season on injured reserve status. 2015 brought the troubled corner an opportunity to contribute, appearing in 14 games, but his stats were less than promising. Last season, he was put on waivers in September and placed on the Jets practice squad after clearing the waiver list. He was activated towards the end of last season, appearing in six games, posting just two tackles. He has a ton to prove to a fan base that has written him off, but if somehow he can turn it around, it would be a boost to an embattled secondary.

Brandon Shell is general manager Mike Maccagnan’s fifth-round pick from a year ago. In case you need to be reminded, Shell is a 6’4″/324-pound right tackle who played his college football for South Carolina. The Jets traded up last season to land Shell. He was forced into action in his rookie season due to injuries along the offensive line. He appeared in eight games for the Jets and received the nod in three starts. While it was a small sampling, and the results were mixed, Shell held his own under the circumstances. If Shell can take the next step in year two, the team will have another piece to the offensive line rebuild.

Jalin Marshall became a fan favorite in camp last season. The 5’10/200-pound wide receiver was taken as an undrafted free agent following last year’s draft.  He wasted little time showing off his skills both in the receiving game and as a returner. In the regular season however, Marshall struggled with ball security and had his fair share of drops. In ten appearances, he produced 14 receptions on 23 attempts that were good for 162 yards. With John Mortn coming in as the new offensive coordinator, it’s possible that Marshall sees more opportunities to prove he belongs. A year two jump would be a nice boost for a young Jets receiving corps and our quarterbacks.

Finally, though neither have been forgotten, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg need to take the next step. While Hackenberg was “redshirted” for his rookie season, many fans have already declared the young signal caller a bust. The Jets invested a second round pick in Hackenberg last season, and this summer will be crucial for his development. Petty, on the other hand, will be entering his third season and the pressure will be on for him to produce. Petty was given his chance to start last season due to injuries, and by fans standards it was less than ideal. To state the obvious, if one or the other can step up and play efficiently, it would mean a major boost to the team.

Next: The time is now for Christian Hackenberg to prove his worth

There are no predictions here, definitely no guarantees, but there is hope. Stranger things have happened in the NFL. Sometimes it takes a couple of years for things to come together for players. Players learn to train more efficiently, avoiding injury in the long term. Others, develop their skill sets in the offseason and explode onto the scene as a better version of their former selves. As fans, we can only hope for the development, a reduction of injuries, and the possibility that these players become contributors for the 2017 season. Keep an eye on them this summer.