When talking with reporters yesterday, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan revealed the team motto for 2012 is “One Step Faster,” and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine conceded the Jets were a “dinosaur” last year when it came to matching the increased speed of the league. It is encouraging to hear the coaching staff admitting a problem that was disturbing to watch last season.
To say the 2011 New York Jets were slow is an understatement. Plodding? Sluggish? Decrepit? These are the type of words that come to mind when I think of Plaxico Burress trying to get separation between the 20 yard lines, Shonn Greene racking up 2 yards a carry, and Calvin Pace and Bart Scott needing a sun dial to time their rush to the quarterback. The Jets couldn’t make a big play against a 9 man defense last year and had circles run around them by the faster offenses in the league.
How will this problem be remedied? Replacing Burress with rookie Stepehen Hill is a nice start. Hill runs a 4.3 forty while I think Burress might have run a 5.3 forty last season. Yes, Hill needs to refine his route running but at a minimum he has speed and size that a defense must respect and should open up things underneath for Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes. Beyond that, Jeremy Kerley will have a more prominent role this season and provides very good quickness and speed from the slot position. Chaz Schilens will be reduced to a reserve role after the selection of Hill but still can be utilized in certain situations. If you go 4 wide with Holmes, Hill, Kerley, and Schilens there is some serious speed on outside and in the slot.
At running back, Greene is who he is and that is not a big play back. However, better usage of Joe McKnight will bring needed speed to the running back position. Hopefully Tony Sparano uses McKnight in some of the ways he used Reggie Bush last year and can get him out in space. Tim Tebow isn’t a burner but obviously brings a potential big play element running the football from the quarterback position in the Jets Wildcat.
On defense, draft picks Quinton Coples and DeMario Davis add immediate speed to the front seven, while the rest of the unit was asked to drop weight. Ideally, their additions to the line-up will help free up Aaron Maybin, the team’s top speed rusher and Muhammad Wilkerson, last year’s first round pick. Calvin Pace may actually even be able to crack 5 sacks this year.
In the back end, the Jets did add Josh Bush and Antonio Allen through the draft and signed LaRon Landry. None of these guys are true burners but they should be able to help in the coverage of tight ends. Allen and Landry have the skill set to be physical off the line with them and Bush is a natural free safety that can line up in the centerfield spot. It should also be noted that one of the reasons the Jets drafted the previous mentioned Davis at linebacker was because of his speed and ability to match up with tight ends.
Are the Jets going to be the greatest show on turf? No. But hopefully they can start making plays over 20 yards with some type of consistency and won’t be sluggish chasing after players like Darren McFadden, Rob Gronkowski, and Tim Tebow (well, we don’t have to worry about that anymore).