The New York Jets drafted four defensive players in the 2012 NFL Draft, three of them are locks to make the roster and contribute in some capacity in their rookie year. How much will the Jets be asking from their newest additions and will they be able to handle the workload? Let’s run through the four selections and discuss what reasonable expectations should be -
Strong Safety – Antonio Allen – 7th Round - Allen fell further down the draft board than most people expected. He is a natural strong safety who basically played like an extra linebacker at South Carolina. Talent-wise the Jets got great value with Allen but it will be extremely difficult for him to make any kind of impact this season on defense. LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith are all similar players to Allen and ahead of him on the depth chart. Unless there is significant injuries throughout the Jets secondary, it is difficult seeing Allen being active on a weekly basis. The only way he will be, is if he proves to be a monster on special teams. It isn’t out of the question for Allen to be a practice squad player in 2012 as he projects to make a bigger impact down the road after Landry, Bell or Smith have moved on.
Free Safety – Josh Bush – 6th Round - Walked into a better situation than most 6th round picks. Bush is entering training camp as the team’s fourth safety and only true free safety likely to make the 53 man roster. If he can hold his own throughout August, he will see significant playing time particularly in the Jets sub and nickel packages. Don’t be surprised to see Bush playing a Dwight Lowery type role in Rex Ryan’s defense, bouncing between safety and corner to take advantage of his coverage skills. If Bush can’t establish himself as a competent role player with long term potential in 2012 it will be disappointing and hurt the Jets already questionable depth at safety. Bush is a likely candidate for an extensive role on special teams, particularly on coverage units.
Demario Davis – Linebacker – 3rd Round - The pre-training camp darling of the Jets draft class who has already been given comparisons to Ray Lewis (seriously, come on Rex) for his intensity and natural leadership. Davis has something the other Jets linebackers lack: speed. It is going to get him on the field immediately on passing downs and he is already running with the first unit in the sub package. Davis will also be a fixture on just about every special teams unit from day one. The question is, can Bart Scott hold him out of the starting lineup for the entire season? Make no mistake, Davis will be the opening day starter at inside linebacker in 2013 but will he crack the starting lineup in 2012?
Quinton Coples – Defensive End – 1st Round - We won’t hide from our initial criticism of the Coples selection however with the Jets apparently moving to a defensive scheme that is more 4-3 and 46 heavy it at least makes a little more sense. Beyond that, Coples put together a very strong OTAs and says everything you want to hear from a first round pick with motor questions. He is going to start from day one and is physically the most talented pass rusher the Jets have had on their roster in awhile. Alongside Muhammad Wilkerson, he has the chance to be a special player in this defense.