Predicting breakout players on offense and defense of the Jets for 2017
By Paul Newbold
Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) warms up before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
This upcoming season might not be so bad if these players on offense and defense surprise many by having breakout performances.
If you ask fans of the New York Jets what their outlook for the 2017 season is, many will paint you a dark picture of the team’s future. Many have already written the team off for the upcoming season.
This team has a bunch of young talent, however, and with some development from key players, this version of the Jets may surprise more than a few fans. There are several players on this roster that could very well be on the verge of having breakout seasons.
If the Jets are able to get major production out of some of their better players, 2017 might not be so bad. Especially if it’s from the younger guys trying to make a name for themselves.
Without further ado, here are the potential breakout players on offense and defense for the Jets heading into the upcoming season.
Bilal Powell has shown development and flashes of talent in his primary role as a backup running back for the Jets. This season, however, his role is likely to change. With an aging Matt Forte struggling, Powell will presumably become the starter in 2017, and be asked to carry the bulk of the load. Powell is a combination of power and elusiveness. He’s quick enough to get to the edge, while powerful enough to lower his pads and run through potential tacklers. If he can stay healthy I’m predicting a breakout season for him in 2017.
Devin Smith is a player I think most fans have written off by now. The former Ohio State star receiver has had a rocky start to his NFL career. Lost to the team in both his first and second years as a pro, due to injuries, Smith has a lot to prove this summer. Smith is a speedster who excels on deep routes, he’s athletic, and possesses a good set of hands. The potential is certainly there and if he can stay healthy, has a shot at breaking out this season. Reportedly, Smith has changed his training and conditioning methods to reduce injury, and if he’s successful, he could certainly be productive in the team’s passing game. I’ll go out on a limb, I’m predicting he stays healthy and has a big year.
Robby Anderson burst onto the scene last season, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Anderson was taken as an undrafted free agent in 2016. His play throughout camp impressing the coaching staff and he made the 53-man roster for the team in 2016. During the season, Anderson continued to impress, he finished the season with 42 receptions, 587 yards, a 14 yard/catch average, two touchdowns and 18 first downs. With more experience and pro coaching, Anderson is set to have a huge year in 2017. A breakout season for Anderson is in the works as it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on him during camp this summer.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is on my prediction list as well. Jenkins has been a disappointment in his pro career to this point. Jenkins was initially taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft before joining the Jets last season. Jenkin’s career has been set back due to injuries and a DUI arrest last year. A change of system coupled with Jenkin’s natural athletic abilities makes me believe Jenkins in on the verge of breaking out. The talent is evident, and if he can put it all together for the Jets, a breakout season at the position will be welcome news to a tight end deficient team.
My final prediction for an offensive breakout player comes in the form of Christian Hackenberg. Some may say I’m crazy, but I think it will be his year to shine. Hackenberg came to the Jets as their second round pick in last year’s draft. The team decided to “redshirt” the young signal caller in his rookie season, opting instead to play Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty. I believe year two will be a different story for Hackenberg. He’s an intelligent football player with NFL size and arm strength. He needed to work on some of his mechanics and footwork last season, but those traits can be fixed with pro coaching. New quarterback’s coach Jeremy Bates will have ample time through the spring and into camp to address those issues. Todd Bowles has said there will be an open competition at quarterback this summer, and I’m predicting Hackenberg breaks out and beats out both Josh McCown and Petty.
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee (50) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Darron Lee was the team’s first-round pick of a year ago. Lee saw the field a lot in 2016, as he learned on the job. His struggles early concerned fans, and to be fair Lee looked lost in his responsibilities. As the season progressed, however, Lee began to fare better as his confidence grew. There is no denying Lee’s athleticism, or his desire to improve his game. Lee will be an improved player after another training camp, I’m predicting a big breakout season for the young Jets linebacker.
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Deon Simon is set for a breakout season of his own. Simon has been a development project for the team since they took him in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL draft. Simon appeared in all 16 games for the team in 2016, combining for 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one run stuff. Steve McLendon will be 31 years old this season and can expect some competition from Simon this summer. I’m predicting that Simon’s time has arrived and he’ll have a breakout camp. He showed signs of coming on last season.
Jordan Jenkins is another rookie linebacker taken by the team in last year’s draft. Jenkins appeared in fourteen games last season, posting 41 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two pass defenses and five run stuffs. Jenkins was a beast at Georgia, where he played his college ball, and fans have only seen a glimpse of his potential for the Jets. In year two, I’m predicting more of the same for Jenkins. With a breakout season from Jenkins, the team’s linebacker position will take a huge step forward.
Juston Burris is my final prediction to have a breakout season on defense in 2017. Burris was a rookie corner going into 2016 and saw some action in the team’s secondary last season. Burris appeared in all sixteen games for the team in 2016, though much of it was in a reserve role. Burris looked capable in his coverage last year, showing technique and an ability to go up and contest the football. It’s my belief, that with capable coaching and another camp under his belt, Burris steps up and breaks out in 2017.
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Whether any of these players actually have breakout seasons is open for debate. I believe they all have the potential to do so, and as a fan, I’ll certainly be rooting for them. Breakout seasons by any one of them, however, can improve the team’s roster. Here’s hoping.