Some of the most memorable images from the Jets' failed 2011 season will be the ones where they couldn't catch an opposing player who was on his way to the endzone for a backbreaking touchdown.
There was the 70-yard score by Oakland's Darren McFadden, who had enough speed to beat New York to the outside before turning upfield. There was the Denver game, where the Jets got "Tebowed," allowing the clutch quarterback to scamper for a 20-yard touchdown run in the game's final minute. And then there was the season-altering catch Giants receiver Victor Cruz made before maneuvering around three Jets defenders and turning it into a 99-yard score.
The Jet's draft class was the only one in the NFL over the past five years that lacked a single player who finished in the top half of his position's 40-yard-dash. Even if not by design, the picks were part of an offseason in which the Jets got slower as a team whereas the rest of the NFL—taking advantage of league rules that benefit wide-open offenses—got faster.
The retrospective is interesting when considering how the 2011 Jets often appeared to lack team speed.
But speed was an issue with the Jets even in the season-opener against Dallas, when Jason Witten easily beat safety Eric Smith for a 64-yard catch and run, to an ugly December contest in which Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek lit up the Jets for 156 yards and a touchdown. New York's safeties often didn't have the speed or agility to keep up with the league's new breed of tight ends. And matchup problems against such pass-catchers often forced Bart Scott, the team's 31-year-old, $8-million-per-year linebacker, to the sidelines in favor of a corner or quicker linebacker.
Coach Rex Ryan said he "admired" the play of his safeties and that he thought Jim Leonhard (ruptured patellar tendon), Brodney Pool (sprained MCL) and Eric Smith (torn meniscus) —all of whom missed considerable time or played through painful injuries—"gave everything they had." But with Smith being the only one of that group under contract heading into next season, Ryan said he'd be looking to bolster the position through free agency and the draft
Per today's WSJ