New York Jets: Five Training Camp Questions

Five questions for the New York Jets heading into training camp

The New York Jets first full training camp practice will take place this Saturday at 8 AM in Cortland, New York. Check back throughout the rest of week for Turn On The Jets preview by myself, Chris Gross and Mike Donnelly. Today we look at five questions facing the team that still need to be sorted out in the coming weeks –

1. How Annoying Will The Tim Tebow Coverage Be? – My guess is somewhere between very, very annoying and painstakingly annoying. It has already started today with “Jets thinking about using Tebow on kickoffs story” and we know every step he takes will be tracked in excruciating detail. There is a ton of hype about all the different uses for Tebow but ultimately look for him to be a backup quarterback with a package of plays in the Wildcat. In a perfect world, Tebow will be a needed weapon in the running game, particularly in short yardage situations. Will there be times he is used as a punt protector or field goal holder? Probably, but don’t expect it to be a regular thing. Will the Jets run a trick play here or there with him? Sure, but it isn’t going to be every week.

2. The Battle For Right Tackle – The trade for Jeff Otah yesterday threw the right tackle position into a wide open competition. Otah is physically superior to incumbent Wayne Hunter across the board but has had issues with his health and motivation. If Otah can stay on the field and is in the right mindset he should run away with the job and relegate Hunter to the role he is best suited for, a backup swing tackle. It will be interesting to see how the reps are divided up in the beginning of camp and then headed into the pre-season.

3. Tweaking The Roster – Most people disagree with the notion that the Jets need another running back. Isn’t it foolish to head into camp with no backs besides Shonn Greene on the roster who have ran for more than 150 yards in a season? If he misses a few weeks, who is going to handle the bulk of the carries? Cedric Benson is there for the veteran’s minimum. Go get him. Beyond that, the Jets still need to add a blocking tight end and will likely do so sooner rather than later.

4. LaRon Landry’s Health – Landry is starting off camp on the Active PUP list. How many practices will he miss this August and at what point does he miss enough time not to be the week one starter? The Jets will be much better served with Landry starting at strong safety and Eric Smith coming off the bench as a role player. Yet, if Landry can’t get on the field, Smith will once again be forced into the starting role.

5. Wide Receiver Reps – All eyes will be on Stephen Hill at the wide receiver position. It won’t be easy for him to walk in and perform like a starter from day one and he will have Chaz Schilens pushing him. If Schilens performs well early in camp and Hill struggles to pick up the offense, how much playing time will he earn for himself? Would the Jets actually make Schilens the starter or keep Hill the starter in name and have Schilens take a big chunk of his reps?

Later Today – New York Jets Stock Watch

Tomorrow – 53 Man Roster Prediction

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TOJ’s Top 50 New York Jets Countdown: 20-30

Turn On The Jets counts down the top 50 New York Jets currently on the roster, continuing today with numbers 20-30

Frustrated and confused after seeing the NFL’s Top 100 player list? TOJ was as well. Due to that, we have decided to rank the current New York Jets on the roster from 50 all the way down to 1. Along the way, we will be classifying the players into the following five categories:

  • Bottom of the Roster (strictly a depth and developmental player)
  • Middle Class (Situational player, spot starter)
  • Quality Starter (Capable starting player or very good role player)
  • Red Chip (Swiping this term from Michael Lombardi, an above average stater/borderline Pro-Bowler)
  • Blue Chip (Another swipe from Lombardi, an elite player at his position)

READ NUMBERS 40-50 HERE

READ NUMBERS 30-40 HERE

(STILL IN MIDDLE CLASS CATEGORY)

29. John Conner, Fullback – The Terminator was average at best last season, his first one as a full time starter. Hopefully, with a more run orientated approach this season he will develop into a more consistent lead blocker and bigger cog in the offense, as Tony Sparano hasn’t been shy in the past about using his fullbacks as runners for short yardage situations. Conner must also work on his hands, so he can be a reliable checkdown option.

28. Wayne Hunter, Tackle – Despite filling in for Damien Woody admirably at the end of the 2010 season, Hunter’s frankly awful 2011 makes it more than fair to question if he is capable starter in the NFL. The Jets are betting that Sparano will help turn into a competent every down player and for the sake of Mark Sanchez’s health, they better have bet right.

27. Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver – The hope is that he will quickly prove to be a capable starter and based on physical attributes, there is no reason he can’t become that immediately. Unless he gets injured, he will start from day one opposite Santonio Holmes and be relied on to prevent teams from double teaming him or Dustin Keller.

26. Kyle Wilson, Cornerback – Wilson bounced back somewhat from a disappointing rookie season in 2011 but still left something to be desired for a first round pick. People forget that when he was selected, he was anticipated to be a big time punt returner and hyped as somebody capable of the holding the fort down if Darrelle Revis missed time from a holdout. He is no longer a factor as a returner and has the looks of a good, not great nickel back that hasn’t proven he can be an every down player yet.

25. Joe McKnight, Running Back –  He proved to be a very good kick returner last season but never really received the chance to flourish into a big part of the offense. Tony Sparano found a way to make Reggie Bush more successful than he ever had been in his NFL career last season in Miami and while McKnight isn’t on the same talent level as him, he does have a comparable skill set. He should be given every opportunity to be the team’s primary third down back and a big part of the passing games, particularly on screens.

QUALITY STARTER (CAPABLE STARTER OR VERY GOOD ROLE PLAYER)

24. Jeremy Kerley, Wide Receiver – Flashed a ton of potential in his rookie season and will be the team’s slot receiver in 2012. Davone Bess caught plenty of passes in Miami in this same offensive system and Kerley should do the same. He will also likely be the team’s primary punt returner. Kerley has excellent short area quickness and should be a frequent target on third downs.

23. Quinton Coples, Defensive End – For where the Jets took him in the first round, he better be ready to be a starter out of the gates. Coples has drawn rave reviews for his performance in OTAs and mini-camp, and seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder. I was skeptical of the selection at the time but you have heard exactly everything you want to hear about a first round pick since he was taken. Coples has the potential to be a force up front, particularly in the Jets 4-3 alignments alongside Muhammad Wilkerson.

22. Aaron Maybin, Linebacker/Defensive End – The team’s top pass rusher last season, who should improve in 2012 with a full off-season to master Rex Ryan’s defense and work on diversifying his rush techniques. He has bulked up in anticipation of an increase of reps. There is no reason to think he can’t approach double digit sacks in this system.

21. Matt Slauson, Guard – Slauson has been the team’s starting guard the past two seasons and has proven to be competent. He played through a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder last season and is anticipated to be 100% healthy in 2012. Slauson won’t be elected to any Pro-Bowls but won’t hold the Jets offensive back as a starter.

20. Eric Smith, Safety – Defensive backs coach summed up Smith perfectly when he said, “you will love him 300 reps, not at 900 reps.” He was overextended as a starter last season and was also banged up down the stretch run. However, Smith can thrive in Rex Ryan’s defense as a role player like he did in 2009, which will also allow him to focus on being the team’s top special teams player.

Check back tomorrow for players 10-20…

New York Jets: Unconventional Approach At Safety

The New York Jets have taken an unconventional approach to solving their issues at safety

The weakest part of the New York Jets defense in 2011 was the safety position. The bulk of reps were taken by Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and Jim Leonhard. Smith has thrived as a role player in Rex Ryan’s defense but is overextended as a full time starter because of his limitations in coverage. Pool was never able to distinguish himself in either run support or in pass coverage, along with being prone to mental lapses. Leonhard suffered a season ending leg injury for the second year in a row and prior to that was struggling in coverage similar to Smith.

After a failed pursuit of Reggie Nelson in free agency, the Jets shifted their focus and signed LaRon Landry. If healthy, Landry is a very good in the box safety who is built more like a linebacker. Rex Ryan should make him a major factor in stopping the run game and going after the quarterback. His durability is a major, major question mark however.

In the draft, the Jets added two more safeties. In the sixth round they selected Josh Bush from Wake Forest. Bush is a hybrid corner/safety who is built to play the centerfield position on passing downs. In the seventh round they took South Carolina’s Antonio Allen who fell much further than expected. Allen’s game is very similar to Landry, in that he plays more like a linebacker than a safety and hopefully projects as a long term answer at strong safety.

Finally, the Jets signed veteran Yeremiah Bell, likely passing over bringing Leonhard back in the process. In comparison to Leonhard, the Bell signing is a good move. He is more durable, athletic, and has better size than Leonhard. Even if he is a traditional strong safety, he fills the free safety void better than Leonhard would have. Bell also provides depth behind Landry at strong safety if he misses time due to injury. Similar to Landry, Smith and Allen, Bell is an in the box safety who excels in run support but has questions in coverage.

On the whole, the Jets have collected four players with similar skill sets at different positions of their career. Bell is 34 years old but is probably the most reliable. Smith is 29 and has the most experience in the defense. Landry is 27, has the highest ceiling but the most question marks and Allen is a rookie. The only player who projects to being a true free safety is the rookie sixth round pick, Josh Bush.

The reported plan is for Landry and Bell to start together, while using Smith in the role he excelled at off the bench during the 2009 season. Bush should have every opportunity to play in nickel and dime situations in the centerfield position.

How will the Jets stop tight ends? The most logical approach remains to keep their safeties out of man to man situations. Ryan will have to get creative about bracketing them with a linebacker with speed, perhaps rookie Demario Davis or with Landry or Smith underneath. Bell will likely see more time playing over the top than he did in Miami and then Bush will also be lined up deep off the ball when he is on the field. Also don’t be surprised to see Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, or Kyle Wilson used to help slow down tight ends in certain situations. Wilson and Cromartie in particular could line up at safety in select packages.

New York Jets: Safety Needs Multiple Player Solution

The New York Jets current depth chart at safety needs more than one player added to it

The New York Jets current depth chart at safety is almost as scary as their depth chart at right tackle. Right now their starters would be LaRon Landry who hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2008 and Eric Smith, who in comparison to Landry would be relied upon to be the primary coverage safety. The top two backups? Tracy Wilson who has never played a snap in the NFL and the recently signed DeAngelo Smith who didn’t play in the NFL last season.

The problems with this depth chart can’t be solved with one draft pick, especially if that pick comes in the second or third round. Unless the Jets draft Mark Barron in the first round, you can’t bank on your draft pick to walk in, immediately take over the starting role and keep it for the entire 16 games.

In a perfect world, Landry will play the full season at strong safety, your draft pick will learn the defense quickly and be a capable starter at free safety as a rookie and Eric Smith will provide the needed depth at both spots, performing in the situational role he has always thrived in. Yet, this isn’t a perfect world which is why the Jets are paying Landry on a week to week basis and went hard after Reggie Nelson to pair with him but unfortunately came up short.

As it stands now and on the assumption the Jets add a draft pick at safety, it is more than likely Landry will miss a few games leading to Smith being overextended as a starter again and a rookie, especially if it is a 2nd or 3rd rounder, being overextended as well.

The Jets are going to need more than one addition at the safety position. Jim Leonhard is a logical addition if his rehab continues to go well. If Barron is taken in the first round, he is starting from day one and Leonhard is a clear cut backup which is where he should start the season off. If the Jets end up with somebody like Harrison Smith, George Iloka, or Markelle Martin. They may need to add a better option than Leonhard, whether that is Yeremiah Bell or a player acquired via trade.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets looked to boost their depth by spending one of their 6th or 7th round picks on a safety. They are thin enough right now where you can justify taking two safeties in one draft.

Check out TOJ’s selection for the Jets in the Zone Blitz Mock Draft

TOJ New York Jets 12 Pack: The Comeback Year

TOJ looks at 12 New York Jets who need to have bounce back seasons for the team to improve this season

Assuming the New York Jets don’t make any more major moves this off-season, it appears they will be relying on much of their improvement to come from within their current roster and whatever draft picks they add. What players in particular will need to bounce back from a rough 2011 season to take the Jets from 8-8 and out of the playoffs, to back to 11-5 and the AFC Championship Game (and hopefully beyond)? In descending order of importance…

12. Kenrick Ellis – The Jets didn’t get anything from him in his redshirt season. If he can play to his potential in his second year, the Jets will have a huge addition to their defensive line rotation that will help stop the run and push the pocket on the passer.

11. Antonio Cromartie – He didn’t have a bad year in 2011 but also didn’t have a great one. We are still waiting to see a playmaker who can pull in more than 4 interceptions in a season and maybe create a defensive touchdown or two.

10. Bryan Thomas – Thomas missed the bulk of last season with an ACL injury. Even if the Jets spend a first round pick at outside linebacker, they will need Thomas to mentor him and on running downs. He is a valuable veteran who is productive in Rex Ryan’s defense.

9. Mike DeVito – He missed 4 games last season and battled injuries all season. DeVito is a big part of the Jets run defense and the Jets need him healthy and productive for all 16 games next season.

8. Eric Smith – Hopefully after the draft, Smith will be relegated to being a role player on defense. Yet, you can be assured he will see significant time on defense next season and when he is on the field, the Jets need him to limit the big plays and at minimum be a sure tackler. This team really needs help at safety.

7. Bart Scott – Scott’s value has always been stopping the run, being a sure tackler, and providing leadership on the field. He did none of that last season, missing a ton of tackles and creating issues in the locker room over his lack of playing time. Scott claims to be refocused and lighter this year, we’ll see if that translates to him playing like he did in 2009 and 2010.

6. Shonn Greene – He didn’t have an inspiring 1,000 yard season in 2011. Greene must do a better job of breaking tackles and occasionally popping a big play. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry as a rookie and has since fell down to 4.1 in 2010 and 4.2 in 2011. The Jets need that number to get closer to 5 again.

5. Calvin Pace – At the amount of money he is making, 4.5 sacks isn’t cutting it. The Jets should give him some support on passing downs with their first round pick and Aaron Maybin in his second year so Pace shouldn’t see many, if any double teams. Regardless of his production against the run, the Jets need 7-9 sacks from him.

4. Wayne Hunter/Vladimir Ducasse – As of right now, they are battling to be the starting right tackle. We can only hope Tony Sparano and his new system can move Hunter from being awful to mediocre or that Ducasse with a full off-season under his belt at right tackle can show some of the signs of why he was a second round pick.

3. Santonio Holmes – The Jets paid him to be their number one receiver and he didn’t perform like one. Some of that was on Brian Schottenheimer and some of that was on Mark Sanchez, yet a share of blame goes to Holmes who dropped his share of passes and couldn’t consistently beat double teams. If Holmes can produce like he did in 2010 when he returned from suspension, the Jets offense will be in much better shape.

2. D’Brickashaw Ferguson – The Jets Pro-Bowl left tackle didn’t play like one last season. His struggles combined with Wayne Hunter’s incompetence left Mark Sanchez constantly under pressure. Brick must return to his regular level of play, particularly if Hunter remains as the right tackle.

1. Mark Sanchez – On the whole Sanchez didn’t have anywhere near the awful year that is portrayed by the mainstream media. However, he did something he had never done so far in his career…he struggled in the games that were the most important. Most notably, the final three games of the season. Sanchez is without question the most important factor in the Jets success this season. If he struggles, their season is going to turn into a quarterback controversy circus and Tim Tebow will be overextended as a full time quarterback. If he plays well, they have a shot to be a contender and Tebow can thrive as a role player.

New York Jets Sign Safety LaRon Landry

The New York Jets have signed safety LaRon Landry

The New York Jets have signed safety LaRon Landry to a 1 year, 4 million dollar contract. Landry was the 6th overall pick of the Washington Redskins in 2007, where he has spent his entire career up until now. In that time he has 383 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles.

At 6 feet, 225 pounds Landry is a physical player who is a “in the box” safety. He will replace Eric Smith in that role in Rex Ryan’s defense. Despite playing at a Pro Bowl level at times throughout his career, Landry has had major durability issues which has led him to miss 15 games over the past two seasons after only missing 1 over his first three years. He has had issues with left Achilles tendon and groin. In the past two years, he has avoided getting injury and instead received plasma and stem cell treatment.

Considering the duration of the contract, this was a needed risk by the Jets to improve their safety situation as their free agent options were dwindling and they needed two players at the position. If healthy, Landry will be an upgrade over Eric Smith and should help in run support. However, the Jets still must add a free safety with coverage ability, whether that is OJ Atogwe or an early round draft pick. Smith now has the ability to be the role player and special teams ace he was in 2009, a role that he thrived in for most of the season.

Landry was playing the best football of his career in 2010 prior to the Achilles injury, prompting Head Coach Mike Shanahan to make a Rex Ryan like statement that he would have been the Defensive Player of the Year if he hadn’t got hurt. The Jets will now have four first round draft picks in their secondary, with Landry joining Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson.

New York Jets Would Be Foolish To Sign Meriweather

The New York Jets would be making a major mistake if they signed safety Brandon Meriweather

Nobody is more aware or in support of the New York Jets upgrading their safety position than this website. However, signing free agent safety Brandon Meriweather is far from the right approach when it comes to fixing arguably the team’s weakest spot. If you are looking to sign a player who has seen their play has radically decline the past two years, is a penalty/fine drawing machine on the field and a major liability off it, then go ahead and sign Meriweather.

In 2009, Meriweather put together a strong year for the New England Patriots finishing with 83 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. In 2010, those numbers declined to 68 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 0 forced fumbles. He also picked up a $50,000 dollar fine for a hit on Todd Heap. The Patriots cut Merriweather right before the 2011 season and say what you want about them, they know a thing or two about making roster decisions. He was picked up by the Bears where he played in only 11 games, starting 4. He finished with 32 tackles, 0 interceptions, and 0 forced fumbles.

Last season in Chicago, Meriweather was fined $20,000 and $25,000 in consecutive weeks for illegal hits before being benched by the Bears coaching staff for routinely missing tackles and giving up big plays. Former Chicago Bears receiver, Tom Waddle, had this to say about Meriweather’s style of play

“What Brandon does is he leads with his helmet all the time. There’s no place in the game, brother, at this particular time for that. It’s vicious enough. And when your intent, in my humble opinion, is to hurt or maim, I’ve got no time for you, and I don’t think the game’s got any place for you. I did not realize how undisciplined a player Brandon Meriweather was. He comes with two Pro Bowls. And he came with a lot of interceptions. But … red flag goes up when a guy like Bill Belichick decides to let you go.”

Also, in case you forgot Meriweather was involved in a gun fight at the University of Miami in 2006 and accused of shooting two men in early 2011. And of course there was Meriweather swinging his helmet at other players during this infamous brawl

Signing Meriweather shows the Jets continuing to ignore character, which backfired on them last year but beyond that, they are signing an ineffective player. Look at Meriweather thriving as the line of defense prior to his benching last season –

The New York Jets would be better on and off the field by staying put with Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard than signing Meriweather and this is coming from somebody who thinks Smith and Leonhard were terrible last season. The team needs to focus on getting Reggie Nelson or even LaRon Landry and his injury history before signing Meriweather. If they come up empty in free agency on those two, look to the trade market or the draft…just don’t go with Meriweather.

New York Jets: Safety Remains Major Concern

The New York Jets enter the off-season with major issues at the safety position

The New York Jets have had inconsistent play at the safety position since Rex Ryan took over as head coach. The problem is magnified because they play in the same division as the New England Patriots, who have the best tight end in the league, Rob Gronkowski, and another top ten tight end in the league in Aaron Hernandez. It isn’t just New England who attacks the middle of the field on the Jets, any team with an athletic tight end smartly stays away from the outside of the field, where the Jets have Darrelle Revis, Antontio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson and instead attacks their safeties.

Currently the Jets have Eric Smith under contract and nobody else. (Sorry Tracy Wilson and Gerald Alexander, until you play a down for the team, I can’t count you). The free agent market is thin, as it is currently headlined by LaRon Landry, Dwight Lowery, and Reggie Nelson. Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool were with the team last year but both are free agents now as well.

In the draft, Mark Barron is considered the top safety by a good margin. His recent double sports hernia has prevented him from working out thus far, keeping his positioning on most draft boards in somewhat of a flux. He will be available at #16 but might slide far enough where the Jets could consider trading up their second round pick to snag him in the back end of the first round, or just trading back in the first round to take him. Harrison Smith, Markelle Martin, Antonio Allen, and Brandon Taylor could all be 2nd or 3rd round options for the Jets at safety if they don’t end up with Barron.

So, how will the Jets proceed? Brodney Pool most likely isn’t coming back. He can’t stay healthy and hasn’t distinguished himself in the past two years with his play. It would likely be wise to bring Leonhard back on the veteran’s minimum, considering how well he knows the defense. Eric Smith is coming back and if used in the proper role, can be an effective player. Don’t forget how well Smith was playing in 2009 when he was used as a situational player and on special teams. He simply lacks the skill set to be a full time starter.

What that equates to, is that you need two more safeties in a bad way. Smith should be the #3 safety, used in certain packages and as an emergency starter. Leonhard should be the place holder for the rookie the Jets add in one of the first rounds of the draft, helping ease his transition and gradually sliding into a part time/depth player only role. A free agent needs to be brought in who can start immediately or the Jets need to swing a trade for one.

LaRon Landry is a big name that will get people excited. The problem is that he will command a big price tag that comes with durability concerns and questionable coverage skills. In reality, Lowery could be the best option out there. He spent last off-season preparing to be a full time safety and then the Jets traded him to Jacksonville where he took advantage of that off-season by putting together his best year in the NFL. Mike Tannenbaum would have to swallow his pride but bringing Lowery back makes plenty of sense.

New York Jets: How To Move Forward Without Jim Leonhard

How will the New York Jets handle moving forward without Jim Leonhard on defense and special teams?

For the second year in a row, the New York Jets have lost starting safety and punt returner Jim Leonhard for the last stretch of the season. They managed to overcome his injury in 2010 and still make a run to the AFC Championship Game but replacing Leonhard will be a more difficult task this time around.

Last year, the Jets had Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and Dwight Lowery all rolling through as Leonhard’s replacements on defense. Lowery was traded to Jacksonville before this season started, leaving the Jets with just Smith, who has been below average all year and Pool, who has been hurt most of the season. Their number three safety is currently Tracy Wilson who was just signed to the active roster two weeks ago, after the team surprisingly released Emmanuel Cook who had been with the team since last season. Basically, they have absolutely no depth behind Smith and Pool, who are question marks themselves.

The Jets will have to bring in another body, but the options are slim at this point of the year. It will be on Smith and Pool to elevate their play and stay healthy. Rex Ryan will also have to get creative and may need to move somebody like Marquice Cole over to safety in certain packages.

On special teams, the Jets have been a nightmare returning punts all season when Leonhard hasn’t been back there. Jeremy Kerley, Antonio Cromartie, and Joe McKnight have all muffed kicks. Kerley will be the primary option to replace Leonhard now and looked good yesterday, but can he be trusted in the swirling winds of Philadelphia and MetLife Stadium the next two weeks? The Jets no longer have Jerricho Cotchery to drop deep as a reliable option when a team is trying to pin them deep, so it will be on Kerley, a rookie, to assume the full responsibility of replacing Leonahrd on special teams.

Injuries are never an excuse. Every team is dealing with them at this point of the season. Now it is going to be about Pool playing to his potential in Rex Ryan’s defense as the free safety and Eric Smith handling the strong safety roll full time, without giving up too many back breaking plays. Kerley has a chance to be a great punt returner, we have seen flashes of that this season but he needs to remember that nothing exceeds the importance of avoiding turnovers.

New York Jets Defense Needs Immediate Improvement

TOJ on the immediate improvement needed from the New York Jets defense if they are going to contend this season

The New York Jets defense, Rex Ryan’s pride and joy, has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. They dominated in the second half against San Diego, the entire Buffalo game, and then for the first 29 minutes of the New England game. Since then they were embarrassed on a two minute drive, the entire second half against the Patriots, and after handling the Tim Tebow circus for 56 minutes, laid an egg on the final drive.

There are parts of this defense seriously lacking in athleticism and speed. Bart Scott has been a major liability all season and is consistently either missing a tackle, getting knocked down or moved out of place. Calvin Pace is supposed to be the team’s top pass rusher but has 4 sacks in 10 games, 2 of which came against Miami when Matt Moore was receiving his first start and they still hadn’t won a game yet. He doesn’t disrupt the passer enough. Between the two of them and the subpar platoon at Bryan Thomas’ old spot, it has been painful at times to watch the Jets linebackers lumbering around the field.

At safety, we all know what the problem is. Rex Ryan can try to cover for him all he wants in his press conferences but Eric Smith has been terrible this season. Blowing contain on Tim Tebow’s game winning touchdown provided a nice illustration of what he has brought to the defense this year. He can’t cover. He misses too many tackles for a guy supposed to be known for his run defense and has a knack for untimely penalties. Jim Leonhard is an average player at safety, who can’t afford to be complimented by a below average player.

These are all issues the Jets will have to coach around for the rest of the season. They managed to do it last year, but can they pull it off again? A healthy Brodney Pool wouldn’t hurt. Antonio Cromartie playing with some heart and more physicality (not dancing to avoid tackles) would help as well. There are positives on the defense, namely the development of the line, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, and the growth of Kyle Wilson. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are good defensive minds but they need to push this unit to the next level immediately to support an increasingly incompetent offense.

The Jets have 12 upcoming quarters to feast on the fading Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rex Grossman, and Tyler Palko. Can they take advantage or will they disappoint us like they did in the final minutes of Thursday night?