Turn On The Jets Sunday Six Pack – Defensive Concerns

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In honor of Mother’s Day, we decided to crank out a special Sunday six pack at Turn On The Jets…so make your Mom some damn brunch you lazy ingrate…and THEN sit back and let’s talk about that New York Jets defense (Last week’s offensive six pack)

1. One of the primary responses I received to this article on the Jets slot corner position was questioning whether we could see Dee Milliner work into that role. My initial assumption was that Milliner would primarily be relegated to the outside. However, Andrew Garda made a good point in a Podcast appearance I had during the week about the versatility Milliner showed at Alabama, particularly when covering tight ends like Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert. There is no reason to think that in certain weeks Milliner won’t be given an opportunity to slide inside for specific match-ups, particularly if a team has a strong tight end or slot option compared to their primary outside receivers.

2. Another name that was mentioned as a suggestion was Josh Bush. However, at this point it appears Bush is going to get the first crack to be the starting free safety. Beyond that, I’m not sure Bush has the physicality to spend much time inside the box. It is also doubtful the Jets are going to put that much on his plate as getting him up to speed to handle a starting safety role is going to be a large enough task.

3. The Jets linebacker position remains weak overall. At inside linebacker, David Harris is coming off an all-around putrid season. I’m not saying that as a hyperbole, after working back through the Jets 2012 defensive tape, it is staggering to watch how much he struggled last year. He was consistently out of position, appeared two steps slower than normal and missed an inordinate amount of tackles. It remains to be seen if he could bounce back or not. Demario Davis is unproven alongside him and looked very raw in limited action last season.

At outside linebacker, the two de facto starters are really situational players. Calvin Pace cannot contribute on passing downs but remains serviceable at setting the edge against the run. Antwan Barnes has been a situational pass rusher his whole career. There is nobody else on the roster who really merits anything more than backup duty. Yes, Rex Ryan will cover up some deficiencies at linebacker by focusing more on using his defensive lineman but ultimately these guys will have to make plays at some point. In particular, the Jets really need Barnes to thrive in a larger role, Davis to grow up quickly and Harris to get back to at least his 2011 level of play.

4. UDFA safety Rontez Miles has turned a few heads at training camp so far and if there is a position for a UDFA to make the Jets roster, it is safety. Learn a little more about Miles here and here and his college highlight tape is below.

5. Last year the Jets started with 26 total players in defense, 10 defensive backs, 9 linebackers, 7 and defensive lineman. As of today, here is a generally uneducated guess on who makes it if they keep the same numbers.

DL – Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Kenrick Ellis, Antonio Garay, Damon Harrison, William Campbell (aware he is playing Guard but think he makes final 53 because of an ability to potentially play both ways if there was an emergency) also listing him because nobody else jumps off the depth chart as of now.

LB – David Harris, Demario Davis, Calvin Pace, Antwan Barnes, Josh Mauga, Nick Bellore, Garret McIntyre, Ricky Sapp, Veteran addition X (again nobody jumps off the current depth chart and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jets added a veteran at either ILB or OLB)

DB – Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Aaron Berry, Darrin Walls, Dawan Landry, Josh Bush, Antonio Allen, Rontez Miles, Isaiah Trufant

6. It is mind-boggling and borderline pathetic the Jets haven’t had a player with double digit sacks since 2005. 2005! This year I think two Jets have a realistic shot of ending that streak – Quinton Coples and Antwan Barnes. Coples is easily the team’s most talented pass rusher and had 5.5 sacks despite only playing in 47% of the defensive snaps last year. It will be a disappointment if he isn’t approaching or over 10 this year. Barnes has terrific burst off the edge and has a double digit sack season under his belt. Rex Ryan should be able to maximize his talents.

  • blastingzone

    You left out Coples at out side Linbacker! If
    I was in charge of the draft I would have gone Jarvis Jones instead of trying to convert Coples and left him at DE! Coples was
    coming on at the end of last year and now he
    has to start all over again at a position he
    has played at only a few times! I don’t know
    Rex has to mess with things?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    blastingzone, your concerns about Cople “changing positions” are misguided & have been previously addressed by this blog here:

    “There has been a recent minor uproar about Quinton Coples moving to outside linebacker on the Jets defense, with many people seemingly picturing him constantly dropping into coverage and being forced to excessively play in space. Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has said Coples will be in the “rush” position on the Jets defense, which we saw Coples play at heavily towards the end of last season.”

    http://turnonthejets.com/2013/05/new-york-jets-stop-with-3-4-labels/

  • Anthony

    Rontez is a playmaker for sure. He seems like an all around explosive athlete. 36 inch vert, 123 inch broad, quick hips in the drills and 6.97 3 cone drill. On the highlight tape he showed a willingness to blow up a runningback or receiver, and also form tackle.

    This is a Rex Ryan kinda guy.

  • http://nothingnewonthenews.blogspot.com OedipusRexRyan

    Excellent point #6. I have been harping on that ever since the season ended. I actually did some research on double-digit sackers since 2006…

    What I found is that there have been 117 double-digit sack seasons since ’06 and that 63 different players have achieved that feat, and NONE of them are Jets. Only the Bucs and Cardinals are the other teams not to have a double-digit sacker in those past seven seasons. Mind boggling. Even worse, Tannenbaum drafted precisely one edge rusher in his seven drafts — Vernon Gholston. Other 3-4 teams in that span were drafting anywhere from 4-8 edge rushers/OLBs.

    In defense of the Rex regime, however, I have heard he and Pettine (when he was still here) use a baseball reference to explain their pass rushing strategy: They would rather have the whole team batting .280 than have one guy batting .350 and the rest of the team batting .200. It definitely makes sense in some regard…if you look at the Packers the past few seasons, for example, they have really struggled with the pass rush when Clay Matthews is either hurt or off his game. That being said, we really need the Coples/Barnes/Wilkerson/Richardson combination to approach close to 30 sacks this season.

  • matr a. dontelli iii

    glad to see you left langster off the list. i won’t miss him at all. now we just gotta hope they feel the same way

  • simon gribben

    Miles is as good as I’ve seen a sure tackler, especially in space. When he arrives, it’s a thumping and you lie down without gaining another inch! Good ball skills. What’s not to like?

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  • KAsh

    It would be bad if the Jets tried to sculpt their roster to fit a scheme and not the talent they have. Now that they have rebranded Coples a “linebacker,” the talent-level between their LBs and their DLs has gotten more even, but even still I expect them to keep more linemen and fewer linebackers.

    The only difference between that LB list and last year’s actual roster is that Barnes is in while Scott and Thomas are out. The fact of the matter is Davis has to prove himself, Barnes has to show he can handle a full-time role, while the rest of those guys could not beat out some of the slowest, oldest, worst linebackers in the NFL.

    I hope the final roster looks different. In all the backups, I would take youth over shoddy talent.

  • Mark Phelan

    Linebacker and safety weakness will not be overcome in Idzik’s year 1. I would feel better if we had drafted a prospect in the middle round(s). I was really disappointed in Davis after all the hype Rex gave him after draft.