On Monday the New York Jets take the field at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey to begin a highly anticipated 2011 season. After appearing in the AFC Championship game two years in a row expectations have been set high for Gang Green, especially after the team was able to re-sign Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, and sign wide receiver Plaxico Burress. On paper the New York Jets have all of the pieces in place to make a legitimate run at the Super Bowl. But as we all know titles are not won on paper, so lets take a look at some of things that need to happen on the field during training camp.
1) Conditioning- One of the biggest concerns heading into camp has to be the conditioning of the players. Following a prolonged lockout it appears that there could be some injury risks for the players that did not prepare/train throughout the offseason. The Jets coaching staff must walk a fine line in terms of pushing the players to get the work in, while avoiding overtraining, especially early on in camp. The last thing you want is a flurry of groin and hamstring injuries.
2) Play of Mark Sanchez- Heading into his third year New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will be expected to take his game to the next level. Sanchez must work to improve his completion percentage as well as become a more consistent passer. The Jets have surrounded Mark with a variety of weapons and the young signal caller must find a way to effectively use all of them.
3) Performance of young players- With some recent roster turnover the Jets are going to look to several young players to make substantial contributions. On defense players like Marquice Cole, Kyle Wilson, Jamaal Westerman, Emanuel Cook, Dwight Lowery, Ropati Pitoitua and draft picks Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis will be given plenty of opportunities to make plays. On offense guys like John Conner, Robert Turner, Jeff Cumberland, Patrick Turner as well as rookies Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley will be given their chance to make an impact. In order for the Jets to have success in 2011, some of these guys will really have to shine.
4) Plaxico Burress- Coming off of a two year layoff no one truly knows what to expect from wide receiver Plaxico Burress. It would not be surprising to see some rust early on, but the one thing that Buress brings to the table that you cannot teach is size. Plaxico is a huge target and the Jets must find ways to use Burress, especially in the red zone.
5) Secondary play- The re-signing of Antonio Cromartie was a huge move for the Jets as their secondary remains for the most part intact. Safety Jim Leonhard returns from injury and will be paired up with Eric Smith while Marquice Cole, Kyle Wilson, and Dwight Lowery will fill in the nickel and dime positions. The Jets secondary as a unit must work out all of their communication issues early on as teams like the Cowboys, Ravens, and Patriots will look to spread them out.
6) Pass rush- Even though the Jets were amongst the league leaders in sacks in 2010, the team had a hard time generating a pass rush without all out blitz packages. Gang Green must find a way to generate a consistent pass rush. A healthy Calvin Pace could be the answer. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson could also help the Jets if the rookie can help provide some pressure up the middle.
7) Special teams- The Jets enter training camp with position battles at placekicker and punter. Nick Novak and Nick Folk will battle it out for the placekicker position, while T.J. Conley and Chris Bryan duel for the punting job. The Jets return game will see some changes as well as Gang Green lost Brad Smith to the Buffalo Bills. As of this time the return duties could be done by committee. Special teams play has been a big part of the Jets success in recent years and that trend must continue in 2011.
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