In the weeks leading up to the Jets 2014 Training Camp, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the key storylines to follow this summer.
1. Youth Will Be Served: The Jets have continuity up front and this pack is full of hungry pups. When the season opens in September, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be 24, Sheldon Richardson will be 23, Damon "Snacks" Harrison will be 25 and Kenrick Ellis will be 26. Elder statesmen Leger Douzable is the old man in the rotation at 28.
2. Terrible Twos for Sheldon: An NFL infant last season, Sheldon Richardson was a terror for opposing offenses. Not only did he earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after amassing 101 tackles and 3.5 sacks, but Richardson tied William "The Refrigerator" Perry for most touchdowns in a career by a defensive lineman with two. He only promises to get more defiant and unruly in his sophomore campaign.
3. Health for the Hybrid: After suffering a fractured ankle in the preseason, Quinton Coples got off to a slow start in 2013. But despite missing two games, Coples led the Jets with 50 QB hurries and finished with 4.5 sacks. Technically listed as an OLB, Coples will play a lot with his hand in the dirt. If there is an area of need up front, it's more edge pressure. The 6'6", 290-pound Coples, who worked with pass rush specialist Chuck Smith in the offseason, is an incredibly gifted athlete capable of big numbers.
Top 10 Photos of Muhammad Wilkerson: 2013 AP All-Pro 2nd Team
4. Mo Focused on Football: Muhammad Wilkerson is special for a myriad of reasons. Voted Team MVP by his teammates in 2013, Wilkerson set a new career high with a team-leading 10.5 sacks in addition to a career-high 91 tackles. The 6'4", 315-pounder also sets the tone on the practice field and he is a stalwart in the community with his T.E.A.M. 96 Foundation (mwteam96.com) that provides assistance to college-bound athletes from four Union County high schools. And Big Mo also made it clear this offseason — on many occasions — that he isn't worried about a contract extension and will continue to bust his tail for the organization.
5. Harrison & Ellis Are Unsung Heroes: The Jets finished third against the run (88.2 yards per game) overall and best in the league in terms of yards per attempt (3.4). Damon "Snacks" Harrison experienced a career breakthrough last season and Kenrick Ellis was extremely productive in a reserve role. Pro Football Focus named Ellis the Jets' secret superstar after the 6'4", 346-pounder registered career highs in games played (16) and tackles (27). And despite manning the nose tackle spot, the 6'4", 330-pound Harrison notched an impressive 51 solo stops. The Jets have the option of going really big with Ellis and Harrison lining up next to each other.