Once the 2016 NFL season starts, the best player in the New York Jets secondary will have the name of Calvin Pryor, not Darrelle Revis.
The start of the 2015 NFL season was a time for New York Jets fans to understand everything.
Thanks to the arrival new general manager Mike Maccagnan – seemingly riding in on a white horse while spending every penny available – Jets fans saw one of the best to ever make his return to Jersey.
Darrelle Revis was back as the Jets best defensive player. All was well in Jet land. Things were anything but confusing.
Fast-forward to the end of 2015. Suddenly, everything became confusing.
No longer did we see Revis Island. That guy was long gone. It’s not like Revis fell off the face of the Earth – being named to his seventh Pro Bowl – but the days of constructing a game plan so Revis-centric that a defensive coordinator could literally forget about half the field were/are long gone.
The days of Rex Ryan literally having Revis shadow the other team’s No. 1 weapon while shading the rest of the defensive backfield in the other direction were no longer.
As 2015 went on Todd Bowles started to realize Revis had to be incorporated into the gameplan instead of being a gameplan onto himself.
By the end of the season we knew Revis was no longer the best defensive player wearing green. Muhammad Wilkerson now holds that crown (as evidenced by our Jets Player Power Rankings from a few weeks ago).
Revis isn’t even the most valuable defender on the Jets. That distinction now belongs to Calvin Pryor.
Pryor, 23, didn’t enjoy his rookie season. Actually, from a fan’s perspective, the first-round selection of John Idzik had a terrible time. Though he played all 16 games for the 4-12 Jets, Pryor collected just 36 tackles, two pass deflections, and zero interceptions two seasons ago.
2015 was a different story.
Pryor was so good during his season season – his first under rookie head man Todd Bowles – that there were murmurs of Pro Bowl. His stat-line of 50 tackles, six pass deflections, and two interceptions not only filled out the stat sheet, but justified the jolt we saw come across the screen every Sunday.
Pryor was a downright difference maker; a madman who couldn’t wait for kickoff.
The reason for such a drastic difference in production was simple. In 2014, Rex was playing the kid out of position. Due to the lack of talent at the safety position, Rex used Pryor at the free safety spot. On many downs the rookie was playing out of position, in centerfield taking away the deep middle third.
The acquisition of Marcus Gilchrist allowed Pryor to move back to his normal box strong safety spot under Bowles. Immense production followed. Forget production, the Jets most valuable defender came of age thanks to the idea he started to play his real position.
The only issue Pryor suffered from in 2015 was staying on the field. He missed three games, and in all three he missed New York’s defense struggled profoundly.
Over that Pryor-less stretch the Jets went 1-2 with losses to the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills. The narrow win came against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The defense surrendered 451 yards in Oakland, 436 yards against the Jags, and 280 yards against a Rex Ryan offense who never wants to score points.
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I take it back. The Jets didn’t just struggle on defense when Pryor was out, they were completely lost. David Carr and Blake Bortles each looked like the best QB in the league on those particular Sundays. This experience was a far cry from the unit’s regularly fourth ranked 318.6 yards surrendered per contest.
With Bowles now understanding the gameplan can never be built with a super-Revis in mind, the guy who’ll be featured most is Pryor. As a former defensive back in the league himself, the second-year head coach understands.
The Jets do not possess that faster-than-life edge rusher who can wreck a game. With Big Mo, Sheldon Richardon and Leonard Williams, they’re equipped with tough interior rushers, but there’s no Von Miller-type who Bowles will look to isolate above all else.
Pryor’s ability (like most safeties) to play both in the box and over-the-top will allow Bowles to have him come to mind first when building a defensive structure for a specific offense. His versatility in the passing game (robbing underneath especially), run support, and even rushing the QB makes him key No. 1 for opposing QBs. Not Revis.
Jets fans should take this negative Revis talk in stride, though. It’s not that he’s fallen off the Earth, it’s just that he’s not a superhero anymore.
Besides, what rookie Darron Lee can do with Pryor in nickel and dime situations this season is more than enough giddiness to go around. Those two guys have versatility, enough speed, and plenty of hard-hitting attributes to go around for an entire defense.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) May 30, 2016