Defense has been the backbone of the New York Jets since Rex Ryan's arrival a few years ago. The Jets have followed the model of the Baltimore Ravens, looking to build a championship-level defense that can carry a team, then supplementing it with a good offense. The Jets were the number one defense in the NFL in 2009, but have slipped a bit since. This year, they have the best collection of talent on defense since Rex Ryan has been head coach.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine have a lot of different tools to use. Two creative defensive minds, it appears as though Ryan and Pettine set out to create a collection of talent that can be used to show multiple looks while presenting different challenges to opposing offenses.
It starts up front with the defensive line. The Jets feature two first round selections in the past two NFL Drafts up front in Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. Add those two to monster nose tackle Sione Pouha and the ultimate lunch pail player Mike DeVito, and those are the four defensive linemen who will see the majority of snaps. There's also talk of the Jets using all four on the field together in a four-man front at times, which would give the offensive line some major issues. With a double team almost certainly assigned to Sione Pouha against that look, it would be extremely tough for the opposing offensive line to move the Jets off the ball.
Moving back to the linebackers, David Harris and Bart Scott are the rock for Rex Ryan. The Jets believe Scott will have a bounce-back season and this pairing will work the way they did in 2009 and 2010. On the outside, Calvin Pace will also look to rebound while Bryan Thomas is recovering from an Achilles injury that robbed him of most of the 2011 season, but the big story is Aaron Maybin.
Maybin finally began to realize some of the potential that seemed to be going down the tubes in Buffalo. With six sacks last season, the Jets feel Maybin is still just scratching the surface. The Jets believe Maybin can be a three-down linebacker and also think there's more sack production to get out of him. If true, that will completely change the complexion of the defense.
Finally, the secondary has seen the most change since last season. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie still combine to create the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. It's almost ho-hum at this point. Beyond that, Kyle Wilson took strides as the nickel cornerback last season, showing promise. The biggest change this season is the safety position.
LaRon Landry immediately changes the look of the Jets defense. If healthy, he's a dynamic playmaker that needs to be accounted for by the offense, nearly the complete opposite of what the Jets featured at safety last season. Next to him, Yeremiah Bell is a strong tackler and was the leader of the Miami Dolphins defense the past few seasons. Add in Eric Smith's toughness and intelligence, and the Jets feature a much more dynamic group of safeties than they ever have under Rex Ryan.
After all of that, the Jets have package players that are hybrids. Demario Davis, selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, is a linebacker that runs like a safety. He will be used in coverage and as a blitzer to get more pure speed on the field in different situations. Antonio Allen, picked in the seventh round, is a hybrid safety/linebacker that will likely see time in passing situations or against teams like the New England Patriots to better match up with spread offenses while also being able to hold up against the run.
All of that talent, and we haven't even touched on Kenrick Ellis, a boatload of talent waiting to be tapped into. Ellis has elite size and strength and showed flashes in limited time last season. As he continues to progress expect him to see time in short-yardage situation to add even more beef to the front seven.
Overall, the Jets have more pure speed and flat-out more talent than they ever have under Rex Ryan. They have acquired playmakers and hybrid players that can be used in different packages to present unique challenges for opposing offenses. With Pettine and Ryan working on the x's and o's, the Jets have two creative minds that will put those players to good use. There's been so much talk about different aspects of the Jets, but so little about the amount of defensive talent they have. Flying under the radar is never a bad thing, but how does an abundance of talent do so?
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