Jets' Secondary Not Tops Anymore
By Neil Cohen
Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, the Jets’ offense is horrible.
The only reason the team’s defense gets a pass is because it’s being compared to the offense.
They’ve been very good against the run (except when Miami was able to find the edge). The front line has put pressure on opponents (except for Ryan Tannehill, who they sacked just once). The linebackers have been solid (except when they let receivers run free on crossing patterns). The Dolphins might’ve jumped to an earlier lead in their 23-3 win last Sunday if Caleb Sturgis hadn’t missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt on a 16-play opening drive or Dee Milliner didn’t make a rare big play as Tannehill went deep on fourth-and-1.
However, it’s the secondary that has to bear the brunt of the blame for defensive failings in the home loss to Miami. Tannehill isn’t among the elite quarterbacks in the league, yet he was able to scorch the Jets (5-7) by going 28 for 43 for 331 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The week before, the Ravens’ Joe Flacco threw for 273 yards, had a quarterback rating of 97.1 and tossed two passes of more than 60 yards. The Dolphins were able to get open whether it was across the middle or down the sidelines.
The Jets’ run defense ranks as the best statistically in the NFL. But the passing defense is down near the bottom, at 25th.
“Whether I placed too much of an emphasis on not having the ball thrown over our head, obviously that was a point of emphasis, but we have to challenge more,” coach Rex Ryan said on Monday.
For years, the Jets’ defensive strength has been in the secondary. Even last season, with all-pro Darrelle Revis missing most of the season, Antonio Cromartie was able to step up at cornerback and make the Pro Bowl. Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry provided a physical presence at safety. The latter two are gone, and Cromartie, whether due to nagging injuries, such as an injured hip, or other reasons has struggled all season, despite getting a pick against Tannehill.
Milliner was selected with the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, which the Jets got for Revis, but the Alabama rookie has not come close to being a replacement. He was sent to the bench for the third time this season after Mike Wallace burned him for a 28-yard touchdown.
“I should’ve come up and put my shoulder into him and just completed the play and make the tackle,” Milliner said after the game. “I’m going to continue to play, continue to work, get better each day. I figure that’s all I can do.”
It’s not like there’s a plethora of talent behind him. Another former number-one pick, Kyle Wilson, has not done much except fair catch almost every punt booted to him. Darrin Walls might find more playing time.
As for the safeties, Antonio Allen has shown flashes of potential, doing a decent job against tight ends, a usual Jets problem. But veteran Ed Reed has given the team nothing in his three games. His speed looks gone, and he missed a tackle on Brian Hartline’s touchdown Sunday. According to Rich Cimini’s ESPN blog, the Jets have allowed six touchdown passes since Reed signed, all longer than 26 yards. Despite that, it seems Ryan will remain loyal to Reed.
“I think (Reed’s) going to be starting unless he’s injured,” Ryan said. “Because I think Ed gives us the best shot. ... We have to do a better job of playing (Allen). I have to do a better job of putting him in there, but the defenses are a lot different. When you mention the job that Antonio did against (Rob Gronkowski), tremendous job, we were in man coverage, we looked him on there, same thing with (Jimmy) Graham. We were playing way more zone than we were going to play, so that was one of the factors for sure. (why Allen played less).”
According to ESPN stats, Reed played 73 snaps against Miami, while Allen was in for nine. With the Jets nearly out of the playoff picture, it might be time to give Allen more play, since he’s more likely to be part of the future.
The Jets can only hope the secondary’s future is close to its recent past.