By Abraham Gutierrez
The New York Jets went into their Bye Week flying high, enjoying their fifth-best start in franchise history at 3-1, and overflowing with confidence heading into the second quarter of the 2015 NFL season. Through four games, first-year head coach Todd Bowles has made the job look easy, as his composure and determination to improve on a weekly basis have really resonated with this bunch.
Rising: Darrelle Revis, Cornerback: The more things change, the more they stay the same for Darrelle Revis and the Jets. After being drafted in 2007 by the Jets, the man they call “Revis Island” made his mark and became the defensive leader on and off the field. After a season as a member of the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the Super Bowl Champion XLIX champion is back to where it all started, and has once again become the heart and soul of this team by letting his play speak for himself. Through four games, Revis is tied for team-high honors with a pair of interception, to go along with his 9 tackles on the year.
Rising: Chris Ivory, Running Back: Jets running back Chris Ivory is simply power football personified, and it comes as no surprise that he’s also on the rise coming out of a much-needed bye. There are very few guys in the league who run with the same brutality as the sixth-year man out of Tiffin University. For that reason alone, Jets fans love him, and so does Ryan Fitzpatrick, as his offensive contributions have silenced the quarterback controversy in the Big Apple.
Ivory went into the Week 5 bye with 314 rushing yards on 63 carries, along with three touchdowns. Even though he missed a game, plus the fact that the Jets are coming off a bye week, his numbers are still solid enough to be ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing. The only criticism there is to say about him is the exact same flaw guys like Adrian Peterson have had in the past. Ivory’s running style is so violent, that at times it could become his biggest weakness, not only because of injuries, but also because defenders will start tripping the ball at times when he’s fighting for extra yardage. Ivory needs to learn when to pick his battles, before he becomes a liability on a team that desperately needs him healthy and producing on a weekly basis.
Rising: Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver: After a down year as a member of the Chicago Bears, Brandon Marshall is definitely on the rise. In just four games as a Jet, the five-time Pro Bowler will soon eclipse last year’s mark for receiving yards, however, in half as many grabs. Last season, Marshall finished with 61 receptions for 721 yards and eight touchdowns. This year, the former fourth-round draft pick has snatched 30 balls out of the air for 400 yards and three scores.
All indications are that Marshall is starting to find his role as a Jet, registering back-to-back-to-back 100-plus receiving-yards effort after a lackluster effort in the opener, thus, becoming a key contributor to Gang Green’s historic start. The 31-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is currently 13th in the NFL in the receiving yards category, and his yards-per-game average of 100.0 is good enough for fourth best in the NFL behind Antonio Brown (119.5), DeAndre Hopkins (115.6) and Julio Jones (109.0).
Falling: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive End: Even though he’s yet to play a single game this season, Richardson is undoubtedly falling, at least that’s what it appears in the New York Jets’ team depth chart. The third-year vet out of Mizzou missed the first four games of the season, as he was serving a suspension for Marijuana. Ready to make his return to the lineup in Week 6 against Washington (Redskins), the 2014 Pro Bowler is in for a rude awakening.
“He’s got to get in football shape,” Bowles said of Richardson, who recorded 67 tackles and eight sacks a year ago. “You can’t put a guy out there like that, that hasn’t been in pads full-time, and expect him to come in and play. Will he get some reps? Yeah, he’ll get a bunch of reps, but you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, as well.”
Falling: Geno Smith, Quarterback: As stated above, finding New York Jets players who are falling thus far this season could be a bit challenging. Clearly, that’s good news for Jets fans, because it means their coaching staff is doing a great job of getting the most out of their players. Nevertheless, one guy that is clearly falling in hopes of regaining his starting job is Geno Smith. After engaging in a fight with a teammate prior to the start of the season, the former West Virginia Mountaineer’s chances of getting back on the field get slimmer by the week. The Jets have not only found an identity in smash-mouth football, but the improved play of Ryan Fitzpatrick has been good enough to keep the 25-year-old from Lakemont, Georgia, sidelined for the time being.
Falling: Stevan Ridley, Running Back: Prior to the start of the season, the former New England Patriot was expected to be a key contributor out of the Jets backfield. However, after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, coupled with the play of Chris Ivory and backup Bilal Powell, New York doesn’t appear to need the Super Bowl Champion XLIX champ. Truth is that Ridley has been on a steady decline for some time now. By far his best season was in 2012, when he rushed for 1,263 yard on 290 carries and contributed to the Pats’ season with 14 touchdowns. Since then, his production has taken a nosedive. In 2013 he rushed for 773 yards on 178 attempts, and followed that effort by recording 340 yards on 94 attempts a year ago.
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.