A rundown of the New York Jets secondary heading into the 2016 regular season. How confident are you feeling about the position? Let us know in the comment section below…
New York Jets’ Head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan came into 2015 needing a complete overhaul in the secondary. They brought back cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, added Buster Skrine (stuck with UDFA Marcus Williams), and picked up Marcus Gilchrist for safety.
Following the 2015 season in a move that was expected, the Jets decided to cut ties with Cromartie, saving the team $8 million in cap space heading into the free agency period.
“We looked at the tape, and after we looked at the tape, he didn’t have the greatest year,” head coach Todd Bowles said in response to the move. “But he played with a lot of injuries, to his credit. There’s a chance he could come back. We’ll see how it goes down the line, but there’s a chance.”
The Jets did not look to re-sign Cromartie. He has since found a new home with the Indianapolis Colts.
Obviously the top cornerback heading into 2016 for the Jets is Revis, who in 2015 recorded a third-best 56.5 passer rating allowed in the NFL with five interceptions and nine pass deflections. He is another year older, so the hope is he doesn’t fall victim to age-related decline. Either way, you know what you’re going to get from Revis. If preseason is any indication, he looks like his old self and the wrist should be good to go.
New York’s other top corners are Skrine and Williams who are in competition looking to own the starting spot opposite Revis.
While Skrine had his ups and downs in 2015, the Jets know how talented he is. He has played outside and was solid opposite Joe Haden in Cleveland, but really lacks ideal size and length you’d like in an outside corner though he makes up for it with his speed and tenacity on the field. Williams looked very good in every position he played last season, basically playing the role of the Jets’ utility player, taking the field as a corner or even a safety at times. In just 285 snaps (27 percent) through 13 games, he recorded 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks, defensed 10 passes, and a team-high six interceptions.
While unlikely Williams repeats his numbers from 2015, the Jets would be best suited to run with Revis and Williams on the outside with Skrine in the slot with backups of Dee Milliner, Dexter McDougle and Juston Burris. Regardless who starts, they should assume the brunt of the workload with quarterbacks staying away from Revis.
Also on the team, are Darryl Morris, Kevin Short, and Bryson Keeton, but I expect them to be gone by final cuts.
Despite issues in preseason, Milliner is getting another shot after injury and Burris with his size and physicality at the line of scrimmage, learning from one of the best – they are two guys I am looking out for this season.
As far as safety goes, there isn’t a question who will be starting Week 1 for the Jets. It’s going to be Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor. Pryor has developed nicely and looked much more comfortable after a shaky rookie season where he played out of position due to a poor secondary. Under Bowles, he finished with 69 tackles, two interceptions, six pass defenses, a forced fumble and some big hits while actually being able to play his natural position at strong safety.
Gilchrist had a fairly quiet, but steadily good season in his first year with the Jets, and hopefully we can expect the same again this season. He played all 16 games and ended with three interceptions, seven pass defenses, and 60 total tackles.
I expect Rontez Miles and Doug Middleton to round out the safety position, leaving Ronald Martin and Dion Bailey looking for work come final cuts. Miles is in his fourth year with the Jets and has played very well at safety and on special teams, leading the team in tackles, a monster block on Jalin Marshall’s kick return against the Jaguars and a blocked punt against the Giants this preseason. Middleton has done enough through training camp and preseason to earn a spot on the roster. He is a versatile player who has experience at both spots while in college at Appalachian State, totaling 127 tackles (six for loss) and four interceptions.
Looking at the secondary, I expect an all-round better performance this season, even with tougher opponents. It’s a pretty young group, but they are physical, talented and hungry for success.
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