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With Leonhard Out Can The Jets Defense Fly With The Eagles?

by Tyson Rauch on December 14, 2011

On Monday the New York Jets announced that safety Jim Leonhard will be out for the remainder of the season with a torn patellar tendon.  Leonhard, who was also injured late last season, will be replaced by Brodney Pool.

It is no secret that this injury is a huge blow to the Jets defense as Leonhard is not only a team leader, but he also makes the defensive calls on the field.  It is going to be difficult to replace what Jim brings to table for the Jets, especially against the dynamic offenses the team is going to face the next two weeks.  Lets start off with this week’s match-up against Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles’ offense is very difficult to defend as they have explosive players at all of the key skill positions.

Quarterback Mike Vick: Mike Vick is as dangerous with his arm as he is with his legs (544 rushing yards).  Gang Green must find ways to keep Vick in the pocket and force him to make bad decisions throwing the ball.  The Jets pass rushers must get hits on Vick, a quarterback that has been beaten up all season long.  The spotlight will be on linebackers Aaron Maybin, Jamaal Westerman, and Calvin Pace who better bring their track shoes on Sunday.

Running back LeSean McCoy- LeSean McCoy is another dual threat as he can beat you by running the ball (1,172 yards, 14 tds) or by catching the ball out of the backfield (45 catches, 3 tds).  The Jets defense must do an excellent job setting the edge to prevent McCoy from turning the corner and running in open field.  Gang Green’s linebackers must play physical and fast from sideline to sideline and remain very consistent in terms of tackling.  In terms of pass coverage the Jets may look to a safety or nickelback to help provide some support when McCoy flanks out in a receiver position.  This type of coverage is where the Jets will miss Jim Leonhard.

Tight end Brent Celek- Eagles tight end Brent Celek is having another solid year as he leads the team with 49 catches.  The Jets defense must find ways to slow down the Philadelphia tight end, a position that they have struggled defending all season long.  Gang Green again may look to a safety or nickelback to cover Celek if the linebackers cannot keep up.  This is another type of coverage where the Jets may miss Leonhard.

Wide receivers Maclin, Jackson- In DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin the Philadelphia Eagles have two receivers that can take over a game.  Jackson is arguably one of the most explosive receivers in the game (when his head is into it) and Maclin is probably Philly’s best receiver.  The Jets secondary will have their hands full covering these two playmakers while also worrying about McCoy coming out of the backfield and Celek coming over the middle.  Gang Green’s defense must also keep an eye on Jason Avant who has had a knack of making plays on third down.

Play fast and physical- In the end the Jets key to success on defense will be to play fast and physical.  Gang Green must swarm to the ball carrier and get him to the ground.  The Jets cannot start out slow with sloppy arm tackles or they will get blown out of the building.  This is not Tyler Palko or Rex Grossman that you are facing.

In terms of pass coverage there has to be some concerns as Mike Vick can spread the ball around and likes to hit his tight end, a position the Jets always struggle to defend.  The loss of Leonhard is going to put a lot of pressure on safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool to identify the correct calls and coverages.  Blown assignments will result in DeSean Jackson moonwalking in the endzone.  A perfect way to slow down Vick is to hit him early and often.  Mike Vick has been banged up all year long and a consistent, physical pass can slow down the explosive quarterback.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this game plays out on Sunday.  The Eagles are easily the biggest offensive threat the Jets have played since the Patriots.  Not exactly a great time to lose one of your defensive leaders.

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