Sounding Off: Defense Edition

The recent years of the New York Jets defense reminds me of Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks.

In 2010, Stoudemire was given a monster contract, five years almost $100 million, to revitalize basketball in the mecca.  He didn’t disappoint in his first year, averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds, just under 2 blocks per game and a first round playoff trip.  The excitement he injected into the Garden paved the way for players like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to want to play in New York, to be apart of something special.

The 2009 Jets defense was dominant: First in yards per game, first in passing yards per game, first in points per game and I’m finished with statistical ramblings.  After a trip to the Conference Championship game and a “players coach” leading the way, the path was set for other players to want to come and play for the Jets.

Stoudemire’s second year had fans questioning if he was worth the money.  Wondering why his jump shot wasn’t the same and nitpicked everything from his defensive capabilities to his very questionable choice of hairstyle for this year’s playoff series against the Miami Heat.

After a down season and the Jets missing the playoffs in 2011, the questioning and nitpicking had begun.  Whether it was parts of the defense being too old, the secondary being not as good as projected or not creating enough pressure without blitzing, the grace period of bringing the Jets into relevancy is clearly over.  The Jets defense was the main cog of putting the new regime of the Jets on the national map, just as Stoudemire did with Knicks.  They both need to be realigned on the right path.

It is time for the Jets to reload and be dominant again.

What any fan wants to see is ownership bringing in players that address weaknesses from the previous year. It is hard to hate on ownership this year when talking about defense.

The Jets were fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, but it seemed as if every gut-wrenching, game-changing play was made over the middle where Eric Smith or pre-injury Jim Leonhard were a step too slow.  The addition of Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry are calculated risks that have great upside.  Becoming more athletic is rarely a bad thing, while Eric Smith is still on the roster as a veteran player who knows the system for specific situations.

Everyone knows what you are getting when talking about Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, assuming he is on the roster, so the largest concern left is the third CB spot.  The secondary spotlight this season will be on Kyle Wilson, the third year man who Jets fans have watched go through his growing pains over the past two seasons.  He improved from year one to year two, so expectations for year three are obvious; make sure there is no debate for who should be playing in that position.

Unlike the secondary, the Jets linebackers are a familiar group with the addition of third round, Arkansas State ILB, Demario Davis.  David Harris, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas will assume starting roles in 2012.  The most interesting cases are what Scott and Thomas have left in the tank and how Aaron Maybin plays after his out-of-nowhere success.  Speed in an alarming deficiency just from typing out the names of starters, which obviously relates to pass coverage.  Perhaps Davis will have a larger, ready now role than anticipated.

The most interesting defensive unit is the defensive line.  Rex Ryan creative juices will be flowing all season creating ways for their six lineman to cause havoc while staying fresh throughout the year.  Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie DE Quinton Coples will have large impact roles even with little NFL experience.  Sione Pouha will again hold Ryan’s notorious nose tackle spot, and subbing in will be Marcus Dixon, Kenrick Ellis and Mike DeVito who all received playing time last season.  The amount of packages and combinations Ryan has to work with should highlight his creativity.

Unfortunately that group does not have one outstanding pure pass rusher, which seemed to hurt the Jets last year at critical points in the game.  It seemed the Jets were exposed when it was third and short and teams knew Ryan had to blitz to get pressure, opening up holes in the defense.  Ryan’s exotic blitz schemes don’t bother me, but when it is a short down and distance and quick passing teams know its coming, it is a bad position to be in.

Quick recap

Most improved unit: Secondary

Potential for ‘this won’t end well’: Linebackers

Chance to have largest impact: Defensive line

Sound off: Which are your most improved, least confident, largest impact defensive groups?

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