Since Rex Ryan has taken over, the New York Jets have had anywhere from a very good to great defense. This season they have been maddeningly inconsistent. The pass rush isn’t there. The coverage breakdowns keep happening. An offense can now run the football on the front seven.
What happened? A lack of talent is what happened. The gaps were there last year but the Jets were able to coach around it for the most part. They couldn’t compensate for it in the beatdown at New England in the regular season or in the first half of the AFC Championship Game. Let’s also not forget this glorified defense couldn’t even give their offense a shot to carry the Jets to the Super Bowl last year, as they let Pittsburgh run out the clock.
So yes, Bart Scott they take a lot of slack.
The reality of the Jets defense is this. They are slow at linebacker and lack an elite pass rusher. Their starting safeties are average at best and below average in coverage. Their defensive line is pretty good but still lacks a difference maker. Their #2 and #3 corner have tons of talent but are still inconsistent.
You have the best corner in football in Darrelle Revis and a borderline pro-bowl linebacker in David Harris. Outside of that, you have a few slightly above average starters (Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Antonio Cromartie) and then a collection of average to below average players.
What is the remedy? Long term it is finding a pass rusher and a better safety to pair with Jim Leonhard, who is okay but can’t be relied on to be the top guy at the position. Short term, it is scheme and development. The coaching staff needs to flash the creativity and brilliance that stymied Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs last year more consistently. For development, young players like Jamaal Westerman, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Kyle Wilson have to grow into big time contributors.
We can’t count on a top ten defense this year but we can hope for a unit that strings together a few great performances and can be good enough to keep the Jets competitive on a weekly basis.