From day one Rex Ryan stated that he wanted to have one of the best defenses in the NFL and after 8 weeks his unit is definitely headed in that direction. The New York Jets defense is ranked 2nd in total defense, 4th against the pass, and 14th against the run. Lets take a look at how each defensive position graded out after 8 weeks.
Defensive Line- For the majority of the first half of the season this group has been solid led by Shaun Ellis, Marques Douglas and Kris Jenkins. While the group has not tallied a lot of sacks, they are doing a good job at winning the battles at the line of scrimmage. In week 6 Gang Green lost Kris Jenkins for the remainder of the season due to injury and it will be interesting to see how this group hold up. Grade: B
Linebackers- In the Jets 3-4 defensive alignment the onus is put on the linebackers to make plays and the Gang Green group has not disappointed. David Harris is having a Pro-Bowl caliber year, Bart Scott is a legitimate playmaker, and Bryan Thomas has been fairly consistent making plays. Calvin Pace can bring this group to the next level once he becomes more comfortable in the system and the coaches figure out how to use him more effectively (Pace was suspended for the first four games of the season). As for second year player Vernon Gholston, Rex Ryan’s pet project, he has yet to make a substantial impact on the defense. Grade: A
Secondary- The Jets have the makings of a very good secondary if they could all get healthy at the same time. Darrelle Revis is having another great season and is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Lito Sheppard, who was acquired via trade, was expected to lineup opposite Revis but has been injured for the majority of the season. In addition Donald Strickland started out the season strong, but has also has been bit by the injury bug. Young players like Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman have played well while picking up the slack for their injured teammates. In terms of the safeties, free agent acquisition Jim Leonhard is a tough, physical player that pairs up well with Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes has been quiet in terms of big plays, but is steady in run support. Grade B-
Overall- The Jets defense has experienced some highs (shutting down the Saints and Patriots), and some lows (struggling against the Wildcat in week 5), but overall they have been very consistent. The loss of Jenkins is a big blow to the team and it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts in the second half of the season. All in all it is hard to find fault with a defense that is ranked 2nd in the NFL in total defense. Grade: B+
Special Teams- Kicker Jay Feely has been very good this season and is ranked 4th in the NFL, making 13 out of 15 field goals. Punter Steve Weatherford is ranked 13th in NFL with a net average of 37.1 yards, and has had an average season. In terms of returners, the special teams unit suffered a big blow when Leon Washington was lost for the season. Jim Leonhard has been consistent returning punts, and now the Jets will look to Justin Miller to return kickoffs. In terms of the coverage units, the group was fairly consistent until the Miami game where the game was lost by blown kickoff coverage. Grade: B-
Coaching- The Jets coaching staff has had an up and down first half of the season. The first three games it appeared the coaches could do no wrong and the last 5 games there were several moves made that left many scratching their heads. Some of these growing pains were to be expected, as with any rookie head coach, but game management and time management issues are always concerning. The Jets should be 6-2 at this point, especially after a 3-0 start, so the 4-4 record just does not cut it. Grade: C