The 2018 season will be a very critical year as both Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan enter their fourth season at the helm. Since they were hired in 2015 there have been changes within the coaching staff at many positions on offense, defense and special teams. With a couple new hires for the upcoming season, it will be fascinating to see who makes up the New York Jets coaching staff.
After going into detail for all of the offensive coaches last week, I am now going to dive into the defensive side of the ball. The defensive staff coached the unit to the 22nd ranked scoring defense and 25th ranking in yards allowed. These coaches are all returning from last year so there aren’t major changes but it does mean another year for these players to learn under their tutelage. Let’s take a look at who will help improve this unit for the 2018 season.
Kacy Rodgers, Defensive Coordinator (16th NFL Season, 4th with Jets)
Where did he come from? Rodgers has coached in both the NFL and collegiate level, every year working with the defensive line until he came to New York as the defensive coordinator. He has a lengthy history with Todd Bowles having worked with one another from 2005-2011, the first three seasons in Dallas and the last four in Miami. The relationship obviously blossomed together as Rodgers was a priority hire for Bowles right away.
What to expect? When the new staff was hired in 2015, Bowles had control of the play calling on defense. However that has not been the case since Bowles allowed Rodgers to take over late in the 2016 season and into the 2017 season. So for this upcoming season look for him to do what he’s done in years past like primarily running a 3-4 defense with some four man fronts mixed in, including an abundance of nickel looks and of course tons of blitzing, especially with the acquisition of Trumaine Johnson. It would also be nice to see the development from the young guys all over this defense.
Quote: On the biggest leap this upcoming season, “For me it would be Darron Lee because he’s adding some of the play-calling role to him. So there’s a little more preparation and it’s more growth and more experience and more people depending on him to do his job.”
Robert Nunn, Defensive Line Coach (19th NFL Season, 2nd with Jets)
Where did he come from? Another coach who has come up through the college ranks, making his way to the NFL level in 2000 with the Miami Dolphins. Just like Rodgers, Nunn has worked exclusively with the defensive line in the NFL excluding 2004 when he was a special assistant coach. Having coached under many different coordinators and head coaches, he should be able to bring different parts from them all to help this young defensive line.
What to expect? Working with several younger players in the group, we should expect to see development out of them. Staying on that track, after the team selected Nathan Shepherd in the third round from Fort Hays State, it will be important to help him adjust to this level as the NFL is a completely different monster than he is used to. What may be most useful for this defense though is to see if one or multiple linemen can consistently create pressure up the middle and collapse the pocket to help the rest of the defense.
Quote: On how hard the transition will be for rookie Nathan Shephard coming from a DII college, “It’s a challenge. Totally different level, speed of the game, the size of the players. We saw the potential on the tape and he has certainly shown that after being here. He’s [Shephard] in the right frame of mind, he’s learning on the move and I think he’s got a chance to contribute early.”
Kevin Greene, Outside Linebackers Coach (7th NFL Season, 2nd with Jets)
Where did he come from? The third all time leader in sacks doesn’t have a long history of coaching but his playing career should tell you he knows a thing or two about getting to the quarterback. In 2009 he was hired in Green Bay to coach the outside linebacker group. After the 2013 season Greene left the team and took a little absence until getting back into coaching last year to join the Jets.
What to expect? While in Green Bay, Greene was there for the beginning of Clay Matthews’ career helping him become one of the best edge rushers during his time there. While we shouldn’t expect anyone on the roster to be like Matthews, we should expect to see some improvement getting pressure off the edge especially if there’s more consistent play from the defensive line. With many of these players not being household names, I’m looking at Jordan Jenkins in particular to take that next step.
Quote: On what Jordan Jenkins could do to become a dominant pass rusher, “I think if he just stays the course. He’s got some athletic ability to him, his work ethic is good, he’s a student of the game. I think this is his second year implementing some of the techniques and fundamentals that I’m teaching so he’ll be a lot better at it.”
Mike Caldwell, Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach
Where did he come from? Caldwell had a long playing career suiting up with 6 teams in 11 seasons as a linebacker. After his career ended he got into coaching with a former team in Philadelphia back in 2008. He started off as a defensive quality control coach then promoted to assistant linebacker coach and then linebacker coach in the following years with the Eagles. He coached alongside Todd Bowles in 2012 there and followed him to Arizona for the next two seasons. Once Bowles was hired in New York, Caldwell was brought in as well and got the title of Assistant Head Coach.
What to expect? We all know this is a big year for third year linebacker Darron Lee. We need to see him improve upon last year‘s performance in addition to becoming the guy in charge of the defense while on the field. There are also three new acquisitions to this group in Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter and Kevin Pierre-Louis. All three should see decent playing time in the 2018 season, so we should expect Caldwell to be the first to help them get acclimated to the new system.
Dennard Wilson, Defensive Backs Coach (11th NFL Season, 2nd with Jets)
Where did he come from? In what was a different path than the rest, the former player came into the league as a pro scout with the Chicago Bears in 2008. Wilson was a scout until the end of the 2011 season and then transitioned into coaching with the then St. Louis Rams in 2012 and becoming their defensive backs coach in 2015. After the firing of Jeff Fisher following the 2016 season, Wilson decided to make the move to the East Coast for the same position.
What to expect? Wilson was a name many were excited to see join the Jets and for good reasoning. What might be his biggest contribution thus far is the relationship he made with Trumaine Johnson while with the Rams. That connection was one of the deciding factors for Johnson to sign here this past March. Now expect their time working together to impact the entire secondary as a whole including the development of 2nd year safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.
Quote: On what he expects from Jamal Adams, “See the growth. His eyes are better. He’s communicating a lot better. He’s playing faster. I just expect him to grow. It’s his second year he’s still learning on the job and you learn by doing so he’ll be a better player.”