It is the pride and joy of Rex Ryan and everything the new look Jets are supposed to be about: a smashmouth, aggressive defense that opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators have nightmares about preparing for.
At times the defense has lived up to this reputation, notably in the beginning and end of the 2009 season…up until the second half of the AFC Championship Game of course.
In the 2010, the expectations were extremely high for the defense, with talk around the locker room about it potentially becoming one of the best in league history, considering their 2009 production and the addition players like Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor, and Brodney Pool. Unfortunately, in many regards the defense took a step back last year.
- 252.3 total yards allowed per game – 1st in NFL
- 153.7 passing yards allowed per game – 1st in NFL
- 98.6 rushing yards allowed per game – 8th in NFL
- 236 total points allowed (a ridiculously low number when you consider how many points opposing defenses and special teams scored on the Jets in 2009)
- 17 interceptions
- 291.5 total yards allowed per game – 3rd in NFL
- 200.6 passing yards allowed per game – 6th in NFL
- 90.9 rushing yards allowed per game – 3rd in NFL
- 304 total points allowed
- 12 interceptions
Outside of improving their rushing defense in 2010, the defense also had 8 more sacks and forced 2 more fumbles. However, generally the numbers were down especially in points allowed, total yards allowed per game, and passing yards allowed per game.
The decline in 2010 could be partially be attributed to the unit’s top two players taking a step back from 2009. Darrelle Revis missed time early in the year and wasn’t himself until after the Jets bye in week 6. He had zero interceptions last year compared to the 6 he had in 2010. David Harris was also more productive in 2009, than in 2010 as he recorded 28 less tackles, 2.5 less sacks, and 2 less interceptions last season.
There were obviously other factors at work, including opponents adjusting to the Jets scheme after seeing a full year of game tape and Jim Leonhard missing the second half of the year. Whatever it was, the unit seemed to take a step back in the regular season.
What is frustrating is that we saw just how good the defense truly could be in the playoffs last year as they led the charge behind knocking both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady out of the playoffs by beating them in their own building. Don’t be fooled by Manning or Brady’s numbers in those games because the Jets defense effectively contained Manning and forced him to keep settling for field goals and beat the hell out of Brady, who inflated his stats in garbage time.
The inconsistency showed itself again in the first half of the AFC Championship Game, where Pittsburgh ran up 17 points on the defense who then finally flipped the switch and shut them out in the second half, even though they couldn’t up with a key stop late in the 4th quarter to give their offense a chance to win the game.
In 2011, the Jets will benefit from getting a healthy Jim Leonhard back and drafting defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round. However, they could also suffer the setback of losing Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, and Shaun Ellis to free agency.
Whoever is filling out the Jets depth chart, let’s hope Rex Ryan continues to mix up his strategy the way he did in the playoffs, which caught two of the league’s best offenses off guard and that defensive unit as a whole will take a step forward next season.