Agression and gang tackling have been the trademarks so far of the 2004 NY Jets defense. (AP Photo)
Looking back to a year ago the New York Jets would not have been able to stop the Syosset High School Braves, through the air or on the ground. With such a simple read and react defense which was not hard to predict it may have also been possible for a group of pick up players to score a few points against the Jets 2003 D. In fact the defense was so atrocious many started referring to the defensive scheme as the ďCover WhoĒ because on many occasions it seemed as if the players had absolutely no idea what they were doing. Donít think for a minute they hid this fact, because it most definitely was a glaring issue.
However, 2004 is a new year with new defensive coaches, new schemes, and a whole new gameplan. Not only is this version of the Jets defense more aggressive, but it seems as if it works to the strength of its players, rather than the players trying to work to the strength of the defense. Fortunately for the Jets, the transitional process is way ahead of schedule.
A multitude of fronts, more involved coverages, and actual chemistry amongst players and coaches seems to be the Jets formula for success. Not exactly a head scratcher, but for the Jets a huge step. With chemistry comes comfort, and with comfort comes confidence, which is a major part of playing any professional sport. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs defense if playing with confidence factors into your success. It is hard to play any sport when you expect to fail or donít believe you can succeed.
The core of the Jets defenseís success seems to be predicated on forcing turnovers, not allowing the other team to even have a chance to make a big play. For whatever itís worth through three played games, the Jets have done just that. They have forced four turnovers in each of their last two games and seem to really be coming together. With the numbers they have put up they find themselves leading the NFL in takeaways. If you combine that fact with the number of turnovers by the offense, the Jets find themselves with an excellent formula for success. The teamís mentality on defense seems to be, get the ball back to the offense and get off the field.
Now the Jets find themselves sitting at 3 Ė 0 and heading into a very winnable two weeks on the schedule. After each of these three wins there was a lot of speculation and unrest amongst Jets fans who felt certain points in each game could have meant a different outcome. While this is true, the defense was still largely responsible for locking up each of the three wins. The Jets defense has slammed the door on opposing offenses late in the game, stopping a comeback attempt and winning the game.
Now the question remains, who gets the credit for these takeaways? Well of course the secondary must receive praise; however the front seven has played exceptionally well. The defensive line is pushing the pocket, holding their gaps, and allowing the linebackers to make plays which is a crucial part of this defenseís success.
DT DeWayne Robertson has to be considered the Jets most important success story to this point. It seems every week #63 is being mentioned for making a play or contributing to a big play being made.
For a new group who are new to each other, the linebackers have played very well and should only get better as the season wears on In fact, heading into this past game against Miami the Jets linebackers had not missed a tackle which was the Achillesí heel of the unit last season. On many occasions last year it seemed as if the Jets didnít want to tackle or they had possibly forgotten how. With a defensive coordinator who has been compared to a drill sergeant, Donnie Hendersonís message has been heard loud and clear and the results show it. The veterans and youngsters are playing with confidence, not only in themselves, but in the coaches and system as well, will mean all the difference in the world.
Regardless of whatever success the defense has experienced in terms of takeaways, the secondary has still taken on some heat. While the improvement has been vast, it is still a worry that the secondary is still playing in a soft zone. What many need to realize is that it was not the secondary playing in a soft zone that hurt it was the front seven not blitzing which exposed the secondary. Now that the front seven is putting pressure on the quarterback the turnovers are coming.
Not only are turnovers coming but so are a victory which is what everything comes down to at the end of the day. The Jets are doing just that, whether itís a close game or not the Jets are winning, which should be cause for smiles within Gang Greenís fan base, management, and locker room. In the modern day NFL it doesnít matter how you win, its winning period. If you donít believe me just ask the Patriots.