After hiring Todd Bowles as the next head coach, the Jets have begun a new era in their history. Being a coach in New York, Bowles will be under immediate pressure to succeed, and despite the Jets’ brutal record this season, they have enough talented players, cap space, and quality draft picks to field a competitive team next season. They are still a few years away from Super Bowl contention unless they acquire a quality quarterback very soon, but it will be important for Jets fans to see an improved team next season with key players performing well and leading the charge.
Three players that could have an especially large impact on the success of the team are Muhammad Wilkerson, Chris Ivory, and Dee Milliner.
On offense, the Jets look to be heading into the 2015 with either a rookie quarterback or a project quarterback acquired through free agency or trade. As a defensive specialist, Todd Bowles will likely expect the defense to be verbs tong for the 2015 Jets, but the success of running back Chris Ivory will be pivotal to the effectiveness of the offense. As with the Rex Ryan’s Jets, the Todd Bowles’s Jets should look to be a “ground and pound” team until they find an above-average quarterback. Thus, it is imperative that the Jets maximize Ivory’s potential and create an offensive game plan around the talented running back.
Due to his size, Ivory has consistently delivered impressive yard-per-rush averages during his tenure in the NFL. He has shown during his two seasons with the Jets that he deserves to be the undoubted primary running back next season. Along with taking pressure off the quarterback and elongating drives to give the defense rest, a strong running game will allow the offense to open up for an inexperienced quarterback and give more space to receiving options like Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, and Jace Amaro. Ultimately, the success of the Jets’ running game next season, which will definitely be consistent with the success of Chris Ivory, will be the most important aspect of the success of the Jets’ offense as a whole.
As for defense, the Jets’ unit can be divided into two parts: the front seven and the secondary. Besides quarterback, the secondary was the biggest weakness of the Jets this season, and this chink in the armor was especially glaring at the cornerback position. The front office refused to address the need last offseason, and the team was forced to manage an entire season with subpar players defending other teams’ top receivers. Adding injury to insult, the Jets 2013 first round pick, cornerback Dee Milliner missed a lot of time during the season and never seemed to be 100 percent.
2015 is going to be the most important season of Milliner’s career, and Milliner could very well be the most important player in the Jets secondary next season. If Milliner does not display strong improvement in his third professional season, he will enter Kyle Wilson territory as a first round bust with his days limited in New York. Neither Milliner nor the Jets can afford for this to happen though if they want to have a top defense in 2015. Milliner needs to come into his own and live up to the potential that came with being a high first round pick. If he can at least become a strong #2 corner and complement another cornerback that the Jets bring in during the offseason, it would mark a huge improvement from 2014 and bring the defense back to levels experienced a few seasons ago.
The final player pivotal to the Jets’ success in 2015 is defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson is the type of player that can “make or break” the Jets’ season because he has the potential to be one of the most physically dominant defensive players in all of football. We already know what Sheldon Richardson can consistently bring to the table, as he has played Pro Bowl-caliber football in each of his first two seasons. During that same period, Wilkerson has been less consistent than Richardson, but has certainly been the best defense player at times. If he can harness his talent and consistently play at his highest level, the Jets’ defensive line will be the most dominant in the league and set the tone for the rest of the defense.
Wilkerson’s play could mark improvement for pass rusher Quinton Coples and propel linebacker Demario Davis towards being a league leading tackler. If Todd Bowles can perfect the football player that is Muhammad Wilkerson, everything else on the defense front line should easily fall into place.