On paper the New York Jets should have one of the best defenses in the National Football League. Unfortunately nothing is won on paper so lets take a closer look at Gang Green’s defense.
Defensive line- The Jets defensive line has undergone somewhat of a youth movement as players like Muhammad Wilkerson (rookie), Kenrick Ellis (rookie), and Ropati Pitoitua will be taking over for veterans like Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce. The infusion of young talent will add speed, power, and size to the mix, now it is just a matter of getting them game experience. Sione Pouha and Mike Devito round out the group, which will once again be asked to stuff the run and collapse the pocket. If this group can effectively control the line of scrimmage the Jets linebackers could have a field day blowing up ball carriers and quarterbacks.
Linebackers- All of the Jets starting linebackers are returning in 2011, which keeps the expectations for the group very high. Outside backers Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace will look to get pressure on the quarterback, while David Harris and Bart Scott man the middle. Jamaal Westerman will also see some time, especially in passing situations, with Nick Bellore and Josh Mauga providing depth.
Keep an eye on Calvin Pace who could be poised for a big year as he is healthy to start the season and has the ability to get 9-12 sacks.
Defensive backs- With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie the Jets have arguably one of the best cornerback combinations in the NFL. Revis has become a perennial All-Pro player, while Cromartie’s size and athletic ability is a nightmare for wide receivers. The area for concern is in the nickel and dime positions where the Jets were often exposed last year. This year players like Kyle Wilson, Marquice Cole, and Donald Strickland will be given a chance to effectively fill those roles.
Safeties- Jim Leonhard returns from injury this season which is excellent news not only for the Jets secondary, but for the entire defense as well. Leonhard is the quarterback of the defense and does a tremendous job getting his teammates into position. Eric Smith will start alongside Leonhard, with Brodney Pool and Emanuel Cook backing them up. The goal for this group will be to remain consistent in pass coverage, especially when dealing with tight ends.
Team defense- As mentioned earlier the Jets could have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Rex Ryan’s aggressive schemes create havoc for opposing offenses and will always keep the Jets in the game. One of the biggest keys for Gang Green’s defense will be to get off the field on third down. Far too many times last year the Jets defense would give up huge plays in 3rd and long situations. The Jets must improve their coverages in nickel and dime situations, especially when dealing with productive tight ends.
In terms of the pass rush, I think a healthy Calvin Pace along with the infusion of young talent the Jets added will address that concern. The Jets were effective getting to the quarterback last year and may be able to do the same this season without blitzing as much.