Enough talk about all the GLORY BOYS on the New York Jets offense…or more appropriately enough talk about the most depressing part of their team. Today the Turn On The Jets 12 Pack is focusing on Rex Ryan’s baby…the defense.
1. One of the New York Jets most popular alignments throughout last season was the 4-2 slide nickel. Pictured below. Basically the Jets use a 4 man front by moving one of their outside linebackers to defensive end and replace the other outside linebacker with a defensive back who shades out over the slot receiver.
When the Jets go to this look in 2013, what will the personnel look like? Here is an educated guess. Against pass heavy teams or in likely passing situations, expect to see Sheldon Richardson and Antonio Garay as the interior lineman with Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson on the ends, with Antwan Barnes occasionally mixed in. Demario Davis and David Harris will be the two inside linebackers. The slot corner will likely be Kyle Wilson, if not eventually Aaron Berry or Darrin Walls. Finally, Josh Bush and Dawan Landry at safety along with Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie at corner. Against run heavy teams or in likely rushing situations, look for Antonio Allen to swap with Wilson at slot corner and maybe for Kenrick Ellis or Damon Harrison to sub into one of the defensive tackle spots.
In this formation, look for Kenrick Ellis at nose tackle flanked by Muhammad Wilkerson and either Antonio Gary or Sheldon Richardson. Calvin Pace will be the weak side stand-up linebacker, where he can set the edge against the run game or the Jets can bring Antwan Barnes in for passing situations. On the strong side, Quinton Coples has the versatility to line up right off the interior lineman or play on the edge. The other “linebacker” front side could be Demario Davis or even Antonio Allen in certain situations. David Harris will be in the middle, likely alongside strong safety Dawan Landry while Josh Bush plays centerfield.
3. One of the primary reasons the Jets lost in week 7 to New England last year (outside of a heinous Stephen Hill drop) was because Rex went to a passive, 3 man rush, man-under, 2 high safety look. Tom Brady chewed this up en route to a game tying field goal. The Jets unsuccessfully rushed Muhammad Wilkerson, Aaron Maybin (GAH!) and Calvin Pace (GAH!) upfront, while dropping David Harris, Antonio Allen and Demario Davis into zone coverage from linebacker. Isaiah Trufant, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie manned up on the outside and Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry played over the top. This is a usable defensive look…just not with this personnel and ideally not too frequently against Tom ‘Freakin Brady.
This year, the Jets could swap out Maybin and Pace for Antwan Barnes and Quinton Coples. They could potentially be dropping the same 3 players at linebacker, however Davis and Allen will be a year wiser and should be more productive in these spots. It also might be wise to swap out Allen with a more coverage minded player like Aaron Berry. At corner, Wilson can slide inside and Dee Milliner will play on the outside and then the Jets will have Dawan Landry and Josh Bush deep.
4. You will also see plenty of standard 4-3 looks from the Jets this season. They have immense flexibility upfront thanks to the athleticism of Muhmmad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Antonio Garay and Kenrick Ellis. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes will both be called on to line up at defensive end in certain situations, to take advantage of Pace’s ability to stop the run and Barnes’ ability to get after the passer. Demario Davis has a nice skill-set for inside linebacker in the 4-3 and David Harris can handle the Mike position. The Jets could use Antonio Allen as the “Will” or weakside linebacker in certain situations or give Garret McIntyre or Josh Mauga a look.
5. Yes, the Jets do run some 3-4, just nowhere near as much as many in the media would lead you to believe.
Kenrick Ellis has the prototypical size to be a 3-4 nose tackle. We could also see some Antonio Garay or Damon Harrison in that spot. Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples will get run at end. Demario Davis and David Harris are your inside linebackers. Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes are your outside linebackers. The secondary will be Dawan Landry, Josh Bush, Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner.
6. Rex Ryan will also mix in other exotic looks, 3-3-5 alignments and plenty of other things that he hasn’t shown on tape before. Variety and versatility are keys to this defense, making players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Quinton Coples and to a lesser extent Antwan Barnes and Antonio Allen very valuable.
7. There is no reason not to be bullish on your optimism for the Jets defensive line. It’d be an upset if Muhammad Wilkerson wasn’t an All-Pro this year, Quinton Coples doesn’t challenge for 10 sacks and Sheldon Richardson doesn’t flash immense potential.
8. Josh Bush played a handful of defensive snaps last season yet projects to a very large role this season at free safety. If he struggles, it will be interesting to see what the backup plan is. Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett aren’t built for that type of role. Could a corner like Berry or Walls get a look at free safety or maybe even Mr. Finger Wag, Kyle Wilson?
9. Similar to Bush, Antonio Allen projects to a fairly large role in the defense despite not playing a ton last year. Allen is a versatile player who can play in the box and bring something off the edge as a blitzer. However, his shortcomings in pass coverage need to be improved or covered up. Teams will go after him, just like Brady did in week 7 last season.
10. David Harris was BAD last season, alarmingly slow, frequently out of place and missing tackles all over the field. If he has another season like he did in 2012, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets ate that contract and released him after 2013. Let’s hope he was slowed because of ankle issues and due to Sione Pouha getting pushed all over the field and not because he just isn’t very good anymore.
11. Jets fans have HIGH hopes for Demario Davis this season. He has an intriguing skill-set, good speed and Rex Ryan compares him to a different Hall of Fame linebacker every press conference. Let’s exercise a little patience here. Davis looked like he had a long way to go in his limited work last season. There is still going to be a learning curve in year 2.
12. If the Jets are going to be a .500 team this year who is in the playoff discussion come November and December, it is going to be because their defense is one of the league’s best. They need to carry this team.