Is it possible that, now with no more blustery Rex Ryan, the New York Jets defense is actually underrated heading into 2015?
By Robby Sabo
Most of us were in diapers the last time a New York Jets team was this under the radar heading into a brand-spanking new season.
Actually, sarcasm aside, it was pre-Rex Ryan, when Eric Mangini had the entire operation under severe lock and key.
Nevertheless, it’s a now a new era and head coach Todd Bowles has already proved he’s a man who does things a tad differently than the previous regime. Instead of the completely “trust” your players attitude Rex planted, Bowles has taken a different approach, a much smarter approach.
First and foremost, Antonio Cromartie’s questionable social media habits have already been curbed.
The end result of the Bowles era is quite simple. The Jets are now a tad underrated and overlooked.
Take their defense for example.
This is a pretty damn good squad. With the addition of beast rookie Leonard Williams from USC, this 3-4 defensive line is so good that their second-string could start on most units.
Bringing back old friends in Darrelle Revis and Cromartie to help bolster the secondary wasn’t just a minor improvement, it’s an entire overhaul. Revis doesn’t just improve defenses, his ability to take away half the field completely changes gameplans and schemes.
While admittedly, they’ll have to prove it on the field, they have most of the ingredients to become the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense in 2015.
“I’ve never played on a defense with this much talent,” Skrine said. “Our front seven has all-stars and then in the back end, we have all-stars. I’ve never seen anything like this. Everybody said the Philadelphia Eagles were going to be like the Dream Team, but we have chemistry on this defense already, and you can see it out in practice. I mean, we can match up however you want to match up. We can match up with any offense.”
Skrine is right. This defense is loaded.
When thinking about the NFL’s best defense, it starts and ends with the Seattle Seahawks. They still possess the top secondary in the league and have Bobby Wagner roaming the middle of the field – who could be the best middle-backer in the game (evidence by how they struggled while he was out in 2014).
2015 Jets Defensive Depth Chart:
- LDE: Mo Wilkerson / Leonard Williams / Kevin Vickerson
- NT: Damon Harrison / Deon Simon
- RDT: Sheldon Richardson / T.J. Barnes / Stephen Bowen
- ROLB: Quinton Coples / Jason Babin
- RILB: Demario Davis / Joe Mays / Jamari Lattimore
- LILB: David Harris / Taiwan Jones
- LOLB: Calvin Pace / Trevor Reilly / Lorenzo Mauldin
- CB1: Darrelle Revis / Dee Milliner / Darren Walls
- SS: Marcus Gilchrist / Jaiquawn Jarrett
- FS: Calvin Pryor / Antonio Allen / Rontez Miles
- CB2: Antonio Cromartie / Buster Skrine / Marcus Williams
At first glance, the feeling most should get is that this group is no joke.
Leonard Williams not even able to start is just plain ridiculous. It’s a situation created by the fact general manager Mike Maccagnan actually knows what he’d doing. Instead of taking the wrong, less-talented player with the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft, he accepted the gift of the ultra talented Williams with open arms.
At linebacker, Demario Davis and David Harris are as good a one-two punch in the league. Sure, Harris leaves a lot to be desired against the pass, but hopefully Davis can take another step in 2015, taking over the No. 1 spot.
Bowles coaching the group is another positive.
This is a guy who did a splendid job in Arizona last season. His unit finished fifth in the NFL last season in points allowed (18.7 per game). This was without some of his best players: Darryl Washington, Calais Campbell to name a couple.
How Bowles adjusted was quite easy to see. Instead of his normal blitz-heavy approach, he turned into a blitz-monster, dialing it up at every turn realizing Patrick Peterson and Cromartie would have his back deep.
Combine Bowles’ defensive savvy and the Jets ranking of finishing sixth in total yards (327.2 per game) a year ago along with the new additions, and we have a formula for raging success.
Although, weakness have to be discussed, and issues of this group come two-fold.
One, they still are without a bonafide edge-rusher. When discussing the top defensive-line groups in the league, the Jets are always brought up with the likes of the Buffalo Bills.
However, all of these guys are interior players (3-4 scheme). The Jets edge rushers of Quiton Coples, Calvin Pace and Jason Babin leave a lot to be desired.
Look for Bowles to get all of the big-three (Sheldon, Mo, Leonard) on the field at the same time in many sub-packages against the pass to help offset the weak edge presence.
The other interesting position comes at safety.
IF THE SAFETY POSITION SHAKES OUT AND AN EDGE PRESENCE IS THERE FROM COPLES, WATCH OUT NFL.
Will, or can Calvin Pryor fill those first-round shoes this year? He’s a box-safety that needs to stay in the box. Routinely in 2014, he was playing over the top and out of position. Marcus Gilchrist will now man that position.
When discussing the top NFL defense there’s no question the Seahawks still hold that mantle. Earl Thomas, especially, makes everything go-round in the Great Northwest. His ability to cut off the entire middle of the field in their 3-Deep defense is something no other team is afforded.
Having said that, there is no other NFL defense as talented on paper as these Jets are.
If the safety position shakes out and an edge presence is there from Coples, watch out NFL.
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