Jets Secondary Younger, Weaker
The New York Jets have lost many key defensive starters from last year’s team. The moves the team has made, thus far, will help them have a stronger run defense, but a weaker pass defense.
Head Coach Rex Ryan’s pedigree is that he builds teams that have great defenses. His first two seasons with the Jets, they had a great run defense and pass defense.
Last season was a complete disaster for the Jets. The run defense was a big part of the reason.
The Jets run defense last season was terrible. They finished last season ranked 25th in sacks and 26th in rushing yards allowed per game.
Four running backs including Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster torched the Jets run defense for at least 100 rushing yards. The best example of how bad the Jets run defense occurred when they played the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars had lost star running back Maurice Jones Drew to a foot injury earlier in week six. They started Montell Owens, a running back who had never gained more than 40 yards in a season.
Owens destroyed the Jets run defense for 91 yards on only 14 touches. The Jets realized going into the off-season they had to upgrade their run defense.
The Jets decided to cut some of their veteran players to save some cap space, including middle linebacker Bart Scott and defensive tackle Sione Pouha. When the Jets made those decisions, the run defense appeared to be trouble, until they drafted Missouri’s defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
"This is an explosive, freakish athlete at 310 pounds,” NFL Draft expert Mike Mayock said. ESPN.com projects him to play right defensive end.
Richardson is 6 foot 3 and weight 294 pounds. One thing Richardson does well is that he knows how to get to the quarterback or running back.
Veteran right inside linebacker Devin Harris is a tackling machine who racked up 123 tackles last season. Harris will have a better supporting cast this season with left defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and left outside linebacker Quintonn Coples expected to make huge improvements this season.
The Jets have a younger run defense that will be motivated to prove that last season’s mess is behind them. The team’s run defense could have been even better if the front office had decided to pursue former Jets defensive end and four-time Pro Bowler John Abraham.
Abraham ended up signing a two-year, $6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets could have easily matched that offer, but chose not to.
The Jets pass defense was a very different story last season. Despite cornerback star Darrelle Revis playing only two games, they finished with the second-best pass defense.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie stepped up big time for the Jets pass defense, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl.
The off-season has been very eventful for the Jets pass defense. They chose not to re-sign their starting safeties: free safety LaRon Landry and strong safety Yeremiah Bell.
This was not the only hit the Jets pass defense suffered during the off-season. On April 22, they traded Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft and a pick in the 2014 draft.
Revis was the heart and soul of the Jets pass defense. Revis was so dominant that opposing quarterbacks rarely threw the ball in his direction. They considered it Revis Island.
Nothing the Jets could do this off-season could make up for the loss of those three players, especially Revis. The Jets did one thing right this off-season in terms of their pass defense by drafting Alabama CB Dee Milner, according to NFL Draft expert Mike Mayock.
“Essentially, New York traded Darrelle Revis for Dee Milliner and a three next year. I've got him as my second-rated corner on the board. For me, he does everything. He plays press man. He can play off man. He understands zone concepts. He tackles, which is rare," Mayock said.
Millner will have big shoes to fill in trying to replace a fan-favorite: Revis.
The Jets pass defense will be worse than last season because of how well they did. When a team’s pass defense finishes a season ranked as the second-best pass defense, it can only get so much better.
Opposing quarterbacks will throw the football to wide receivers that are near Millner early and often to see how good he actually is.
Overall, the Jets defense had a rough off-season due to trade and salary cap casualties. The challenge for the Jets is that the defense will determine if they can challenge for a playoff berth or compete for the first pick in the 2014 draft.