The New York Jets defense has problems and shortcomings, as any unit in the NFL does. However, thanks to Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s ability to gameplan on a weekly basis they can still come up with big time performances, which will allow the Jets to remain a playoff contender throughout the rest of the year.
One of the other reasons for optimism with the Jets defense in their final nine games is the development of their young players.
Let’s start with the defensive line, which has quickly been rebuilt for the long haul. First round draft pick Muhammad Wilkerson has put together a strong start to the year, particularly with his showings against Jacksonville, Baltimore, and San Diego. Third round pick Kenrick Ellis has shown potential in his limited role and should get more reps as the season moves on. Beyond that both Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon are quality rotational players to support Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, who should still have their best years in front of them.
At linebacker, the Jets are sorely lacking speed. Josh Mauga and Jamaal Westerman are platooning as replacements for Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker and both have taken their lumps. Yet, Westerman has shown some of the pass rush ability the coaching staff has talked up with 2.5 sacks and Mauga should get better as the season progresses. Beyond that, Aaron Maybin has been a revelation with 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in only four games with very limited reps. His role will continue grow and he just may be the double digit sack guy the Jets have been looking for.
In the secondary, outside of Darrelle Revis putting together another monster season the most encouraging thing has been the growth of Kyle Wilson. The Jets 2010 first round pick is substantially improved in his second year and is turning into a very good nickel back, which is a key spot in Ryan’s defense.
In the long term, the Jets will need more young talent, particularly at safety and linebacker. However, they do have enough this year to make that run Rex Ryan talked about in his most recent press conference.