The New York Jets defense, Rex Ryan’s pride and joy, has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. They dominated in the second half against San Diego, the entire Buffalo game, and then for the first 29 minutes of the New England game. Since then they were embarrassed on a two minute drive, the entire second half against the Patriots, and after handling the Tim Tebow circus for 56 minutes, laid an egg on the final drive.
There are parts of this defense seriously lacking in athleticism and speed. Bart Scott has been a major liability all season and is consistently either missing a tackle, getting knocked down or moved out of place. Calvin Pace is supposed to be the team’s top pass rusher but has 4 sacks in 10 games, 2 of which came against Miami when Matt Moore was receiving his first start and they still hadn’t won a game yet. He doesn’t disrupt the passer enough. Between the two of them and the subpar platoon at Bryan Thomas’ old spot, it has been painful at times to watch the Jets linebackers lumbering around the field.
At safety, we all know what the problem is. Rex Ryan can try to cover for him all he wants in his press conferences but Eric Smith has been terrible this season. Blowing contain on Tim Tebow’s game winning touchdown provided a nice illustration of what he has brought to the defense this year. He can’t cover. He misses too many tackles for a guy supposed to be known for his run defense and has a knack for untimely penalties. Jim Leonhard is an average player at safety, who can’t afford to be complimented by a below average player.
These are all issues the Jets will have to coach around for the rest of the season. They managed to do it last year, but can they pull it off again? A healthy Brodney Pool wouldn’t hurt. Antonio Cromartie playing with some heart and more physicality (not dancing to avoid tackles) would help as well. There are positives on the defense, namely the development of the line, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, and the growth of Kyle Wilson. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are good defensive minds but they need to push this unit to the next level immediately to support an increasingly incompetent offense.
The Jets have 12 upcoming quarters to feast on the fading Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rex Grossman, and Tyler Palko. Can they take advantage or will they disappoint us like they did in the final minutes of Thursday night?