Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

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First a few updates about the site:

1. Across the top of the site, you’ll notice I have a 2009 depth chart, which I will try to keep as updated as possible. I last updated it yesterday with where the Jets stand coming out of their rookie mini-camp. You’ll also notice that whomever is at the top of the depth chart at their respective position has the distinct honor of having their picture up under their position name.

2. I also have the 2009 schedule, with one of my favorite pictures of all time on top. Hopefully, we will be seeing something similar against New England both times this year.

3. There is an off-season additions page, with a listing and photos of all the major players the Jets acquired this off-season through free agency, trades, and the draft.

4. Finally, there is an About the Author Page, which just has a little more information about myself, nothing too exciting.

Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

When being interviewed at the Jets recent non mandatory mini-camp, “Swaggalicious” was the word Bart Scott used to describe the way he envisions his defense playing this year. Scott knows that Head Coach Rex Ryan wants to win with an aggressive, stingy defense leading the way, supported by a solid running game and a quarterback who protects the football. The Jets were already a very good defensive team in 2008, but a few off-season additions have many thinking they could have one of the top units in the NFL this upcoming year.

Starting at the top, Rex Ryan and newly hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will advocate more of an attacking scheme that puts more people in the box and more pressure on the quarterback. Too many times last year, the Jets were a “reactive” defense, sitting back and waiting to adjust to whatever game-plan the offense came out with. Ryan isn’t going to do that, he is going to force offenses to adjust to a wide variety of looks and blitzes, and also hopefully be better at in-game adjustments than his predecessor.

The Jets defensive line is probably their weakest unit on this side of the ball. Kris Jenkins is a beast at nose tackle but needs to be properly rested or he will wear down at the end of the year. Sione Pouha and Howard Green need to step up and provide quality reps off the bench or Jenkins is going to fade during the stretch  run. At defensive end, Shaun Ellis is a solid veteran who should be good for 7-9 sacks. On the other side, Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito will be asked to split reps. Neither is really built to be a full time player, but hopefully they can combine to form a decent duo opposite Ellis. Kareem Brown is a decent depth player, but the Jets could really use another player in their d-line rotation.

The Jets should be rock solid at inside linebacker with Bart Scott and David Harris. Scott will be looked on to be the vocal leader of the defense, as an experienced pro-bowler in Ryan’s scheme. Harris is coming off an injury plagued year, but if he can return to his rookie form from 2007, he has the potential to be a pro-bowler himself. At outside linebacker, Calvin Pace is a very good all around player who will hopefully be given more of a chance to rush the passer this year. Eric Mangini had Pace dropping into coverage way too often last year, when his real strength is going after the quarterback. Bryan Thomas will start out at the other spot, but all eyes will be on 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston, who was a complete bust in his rookie year. If Ryan can get Gholston to reach his potential, the Jets will gaining a valuable pass rushing weapon. The back-up spots at both inside and outside are wide open, although Marques Murrell and Jason Trunsick have shown potential and should get roster spots. Larry Izzo will make the roster as a special teamer and provide depth at the inside position.

The Jets secondary made a habit of getting beat like a drum last season. They addressed this weakness by trading for former pro-bowler Lito Sheppard at cornerback, signing Jim Leonhard to play safety, and adding Donald Strickland to play nickel-back. Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the league, and if Sheppard can stay healthy opposite him, the Jets will have one of the best duos in the NFL. Kerry Rhodes is coming off a down year, but many blame Eric Mangini’s scheme for his lack of big plays in 2008. Leonhard should provide a good complement to him, and help the adjustment to Ryan’s scheme as one of his former players. Strickland and second year player Dwight Lowery will battle for reps at corner behind Revis and Sheppard, Lowery showed great potential last year but struggled down the stretch. Strickland is a solid veteran, who is expected to get most of the reps as the #3 corner. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll was re-signed for special teams purposes, but is a former first round pick who may be able to find some reps on defense. Eric Smith is the top backup at safety and does have starting experience from last year.

On paper, the Jets have the ability to have one of the league’s best defenses. Jenkins, Revis, Ellis, Sheppard, and Scott are all former pro-bowlers and Ryan is considered one of the NFL’s brightest defensive minds. There are obviously a few variables that need to break the Jets way for them to reach their full defensive potential but we will look at those tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

  1. One of the main reasons I didn’t like the trade up to get Shon Greene was that it cost us players. We lost a lot to trade up and get Mark Sanchez [which I totally support] but Greene was not necessary.

    We needed a top DE prospect and receiver. We got neither. Our D-line has no depth and is very suspect on paper, showing we have an anemic pass rush and a very soft run defense when Jenkins is resting.

    That’s where Rex Ryan comes in. I think his aggressive scheme will do a lot for the defense creating a decent pass rush, and stopping the opposing running game stone cold. He might even turn an underrated player like Mike Devito into a star. His passion for the defense could breathe new life into the aging Shaun Ellis who showed a little something at the beginning of last season and proved he still has some gas left in his tank.

    Personally, I think Gholston will flop again at LB, especially when facing competition from Jamaal Westerman. I’m waiting to see if Rex will try him out at DE. I bet he’ll be a pleasant surprise.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Question on Kareem Brown. You mentioned him as depth for the D line, but since he’s supposedly dropped a ton of weight as the team looks to make him a blocking TE do you really think he can serve that purpose?

    ret2ski

  3. Angel,

    I wasn’t crazy about how much the Jets had to give up to get Shonn Greene either, they needed more depth esepcially on the defensive line. I’d be surprised if they didn’t add another veteran before the season started.

    You make a good point about a guy like DeVito, who Ryan has already stated that he is a big fan of. The Jets are going to need him to step up now, with K. Coleman in Cleveland.

    I am worried about Gholston but hopeful that Ryan can help him reach his potential. I’d take 5-7 sacks from this year because its better than nothing. I know this staff is very high on Westerman and he has a real shot to make the roster and potentially an impact on the field this year.

  4. ret2ski,

    You make a great point about Kareem Brown. The Jets are eventually going to have to make a decision about where he should focus on, offense or defense. If it is on offense, then the Jets are even thinner on the defensive line and really need to add another veteran. Hopefully, one of their UDFA’s will step up at tight end or they will sign somebody, allowing Brown to bulk back up and focus on defense because I think he has good potential there.

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