Which Jets earned game balls for the season?


After games, coaches give out game balls to their best defensive or offensive players. At cover32, we give them out after the season:

Offense – Chris Ivory

In a bunch of ways, Ivory had himself a relatively modest season. He didn’t run for 1,000 yards. He didn’t carry the ball more than 200 times. He almost never catches passes out of the backfield. By most intents and purposes, Ivory was effective in 2013, but he wasn’t great by any means.

That logic probably makes sense. Ivory’s game ball is some mix between the conventional numbers not necessarily telling the story of his entire season and the Jets’ offense not necessarily having any identity all year. Ivory finished the season 833 rushing yards and a more-than-respectable 4.6 yards per carry average. He actually wasn’t the No. 1 option in the backfield for all of 2013. Early in the year, Bilal Powell was that guy after Ivory injured a hamstring and proceeded to fall behind him in the depth chart. But as the season developed, so did Ivory.

In a nine-game stretch from Week 6 to Week 16, Ivory ran for 699 yards with three touchdowns. He averaged 4.9 yards a carry. That prorates to 1,243 yards on 254 carries with five touchdowns over the course of a 16-game season. Ivory can play. And because of that he’s likely a part of the Jets’ future plans.

Defense – Muhammad Wilkerson

It’s odd how disrespected the Jets are sometimes, considering how much media attention they get. Granted, much of that attention is negative – but let’s go ahead and ignore that fact, because it shouldn’t take away from what Wilkerson did this past season.

Somehow, Wilkerson didn’t make First-Team All-Pro after leading one of the best defensive lines in the NFL to the most intimidating run-stopping season in the NFL. The Jets finished 2013 with the third-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, but one that allowed only 3.4 yards per carry. That was best in the league by a third of a yard, by a whole foot per carry.

Wilkerson was the anchor of the defense, a dominant run stopper who also finished the season with a team-leading 10.5 sacks. Sheldon Richardson had a great rookie season. David Harris and Calvin Pace had nice comeback years. Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis proved that they can both clog up the middle of the Jets’ defensive line at consistently overpowering levels. But Wilkerson was the best player on this defense, no question, and at age 24, he’s only going to continue to improve.

To read about how the Jets can build around their defensive line, click here.

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