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Top 5 players that must succeed in 2017

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins scrambles as Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins scrambles as Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 29: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins scrambles as Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 29: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins scrambles as Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The New York Jets need to show they can move forward rather than backward in 2017. Here are the top five players that must succeed to promote such growth.

The New York Jets are a young team, and it’s difficult to win early on the way they are building their team, through the NFL Draft. This team isn’t completely devoid of talent. It’s just really lacking experience and evidence to prove how good or bad they actually are or can be.

The Jets don’t necessarily have to have a winning record to prove that. They can fight tooth-and-nail, show some grit and determination, and be in many of their games to do so.

For the Jets, success is predicated on a continuum of growth rather than win-loss total, and these are the top five players that can facilitate that.

Next: 5. Lachlan Edwards

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 13: Lac Edwards #4 of the New York Jets punts the ball against the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 13: Lac Edwards #4 of the New York Jets punts the ball against the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

5. Punter Lachlan Edwards

Edwards needs to make strides as a punter in 2017. He did okay as a rookie in 2016, but his average was 43.1 yards per punt (28th in the league), and his net average was 37.3 yards (30th in the NFL).

With a young offense that needs some confidence, that will have to drastically improve. Giving the opponents long drives to work with allows the defense to be more aggressive.

In turn, that can have a dramatic effect on the offense. If they can have shorter fields to work with, they can likely have more scoring opportunities, and then gain confidence in themselves that could translate to longer scoring drives in the future.

The growth of Edwards will impact the team, even though he’s a punter. It’s very integral in the ultimate growth moving forward.

Next: 4. Jordan Jenkins

SANTA CLARA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers is hit by Jordan Jenkins #48 of the New York Jets during their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers is hit by Jordan Jenkins #48 of the New York Jets during their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

4. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins

Jenkins was drafted to aid the pass rush and add a presence on defense. He had 2.5 sacks in 2016 but will have to do more in 2017 to help the line attack the quarterback.

The defense will have to carry the Jets in 2017, and Jenkins will have to be an integral part of that. Jenkins will have to improve his all-around game, too.

He had 41 total tackles and two tackles for loss. He has good strength to be able to shake offensive tackles.

Jenkins is going to need to step up his game, especially with the double teams that may happen up front. Jenkins can take advantage of many one-on-one opportunities.

Next: 3. Darron Lee

3. Linebacker Darron Lee

With David Harris now in New England, it’s Lee’s time. Alongside Demario Davis, Lee will have to be a force against the run and pass.

In 2016, Lee had three tackles for loss, a sack, two passes defended and 70 total tackles. That’s not bad for a rookie season in which he missed three games.

Harris was a tackling machine, and Lee will have to fill that void. He was brought in to bring quickness and speed to the inside.

Lee doesn’t have to be spectacular or a superstar. He just needs to follow the mantra of the Patriots, just do your job, and he’ll be fine.

Next: 2. Leonard Williams

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 23: Leonard Williams #92 of the New York Jets celebrates against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 23: Leonard Williams #92 of the New York Jets celebrates against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

2. Defensive End Leonard Williams

Year two for Williams was much better than his rookie season. Now, he must take another step forward to get closer to the elite category.

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Williams went from 63 tackles to 68, seven tackles for loss to 10, and 3 sacks to 7. If he wants to be the big dog in town, he’s going to have to get closer to 100 tackles and double-digit sacks.

Williams is becoming a fan favorite and a talent to fear on the field. He can also become the anchor of the defense if he steps up his game even further in 2017.

He and Muhammad Wilkerson could be a force to be reckoned with. They could be a fearsome tandem that is almost impossible to stop.

Next: 1. Muhammad Wilkerson

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 13: Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets sacks Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 13: Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets sacks Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

1. Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson

Wilkerson has shown a new side to himself in camp this season. He’s becoming more vocal, and as he told Bob Glauber of Newsday, he had to:

“I’ve always had it in me, but I always had a lot of older guys here who spoke more than I did,” Wilkerson, 27, told Newsday after practice Thursday afternoon. “So I didn’t necessarily have to be vocal. But those guys are no longer here, so I just took it upon myself to speak up more.”

It’s not just about words, though. Wilkerson must do it on the field also. It’s been a roller coaster ride over the last four season for Wilkerson. In 2013, he had 10.5 sacks; that dipped to six in 2014.

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He followed up that season with 12 in 2015, and then, it dropped back down to 4.5 last season. We all know what he’s capable of, he just has to go do it.

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