TOJ Roundtable: New York Jets Defensive Issues Edition

The TOJ Roundtable discuss how the Jets can remedy their ongoing issues on defense

The Turn On The Jets Roundtable is back to debate issues surrounding the New York Jets. Make sure to give all of the writers a follow on Twitter and if there is a question you want to see us debate, leave it in the comment section!

How can the New York Jets remedy their ongoing issues on defense? (Inability to stop the deep ball, lack of turnovers, inconsistent pass rush)

Joe Caporoso – The harsh reality for the Jets right now is that they are pretty awful at cornerback and have a collection of safeties who are average in coverage at best. There is only so much Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman can do to cover up these deficiencies.

First off, it is time to avoid having Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner singled up as often as possible. I know this is the antithesis to the Rex doctrine but he cannot be stubborn enough to keep leaving these guys out there on an island. More zone coverage is needed and more help over the top from the safeties is needed.

It is also time to dig into the bench a little. Many people think we have an irrational love of Darrin Walls on this site. I’m not saying give him 60 reps this Sunday but, there is a role for him to play on this defense and the same goes for Isaiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster and Kyle Wilson on the outside…all options need to be on the table right now.

As for the pass rush, the Jets desperately need Quinton Coples to bring it off the edge every single week. He is the only real threat at the position and they cannot afford for him to disappear on Sunday.

You would hope that Ed Reed can contribute a turnover or two at some point, especially if he is going to keep playing so much. Beyond that, the Jets need guys like Demario Davis and David Harris to constantly be ripping at the ball and looking to create fumbles.

Cole Patterson Instead of making my own conjectures, I will try for an educated guess based off adjustments Rex Ryan has made in the past when his defense hit a wall. Early in his tenure, when the defensive backfield was stout but the front seven failed to get pressure, Rex would play the numbers game. He would play predominately nickel and use exotic blitz schemes to overwhelm the opponents o-line with a numbers advantage.

Now, Rex faces a new problem. The front seven can pressure the QB, but not consistently. The secondary has taken a step back in deep coverage. The defense, as a whole, is struggling to create turn overs. I believe Rex will again turn to numbers to remedy these issues.

In the coming weeks, expect to see a lot more three safety, dime looks. Look to see four down linemen (Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, Coples), one linebacker (Davis), three corners (Cromartie, Milliner, and Wilson – unless Rex decides Walls provides a better option) and three safeties (Allen, Landry, Reed). This specific personnel package could be lined up in various different formations to best remedy the Jets pass-rush/coverage/turn-over issues depending on the offensive formations.

The corners will almost certainly continue to see the most time in press man coverage. The safeties could alternate between a two-deep, one-mid zone or a robber coverage. The four down linemen and the linebacker will be primarily used to rush the passer. However, the benefit of having such superb athletes at these positions is that you can alternately drop one or more into coverage or stunt them to create favorable match-ups.  In short, Rex will put his best eleven defenders on the field at once and (outside of the corners) alternate their coverage and pass rush assignments to best get pressure while helping the corners over the top.

Dalbin Osorio – Aside from asking the league to rescind the trade of Revis and drafting Sheldon Richardson 9th overall and then convincing Revis that he should play for $12M for the benefit of the team? Ha! If it were only that simple, right?

Rex knows more about defense than I do, so i’d leave the nuts and bolts to him. What i’d do, in order to solve the issues on defense, is employ more two deep safety looks within a base 4-2-5 formation. Roll Ed Reed to Milliner’s side and keep Landry on Cro’s side. Play more press on the outside. Playing Coples, Wilkerson, Richardson, and Harrison on the line in more four down lineman looks would improve the pass rush. The 4-2-5 formation, as a base, with Coples and the Sons of Anarchy on the line, Harris and Davis at LB, and then Milliner, Cro, Walls/Wilson, Reed, and Landry gives you so much flexibility because you can go with the 4-2-5 base, or the 3-3-5 base with Antonio Allen blitzing off the edge similar to what he did at South Carolina, or even a 2-3-6 AMOEBA formation where everyone is standing up and you have no idea where the pass rush is coming from.

Plus, having more DBs on the field should shore up the pass defense. And, like Connor said, having Walls (the better player right now) on the field allows you to slide Milliner to the slot. Playing your four best pass rushers together should improve your pass rush and this, in turn, will allow for more rushed throws from opposing QBs and this will hopefully lead to more turnovers.

Frank Giasone – When Rex Ryan talks about his defense this season, it doesn’t come with the same air of confidence. Why is that? Well, It’s no secret that this defensive unit has some major flaws. Flaws that Rex has yet to encounter as a head coach here in New York.

How can he remedy these issues? More importantly….CAN HE remedy these issues?

With his current cast of characters in the secondary, I’m not sure he can. Yes, the Jets pass rush is better than ever under Rex. And yes, this team has been unbelievable against the run. But in a passing league, the issues at hand are devastating and it’s become clear that Rex must address them moving forward.

– Consistent Pass Rush: It’s pretty simple, when the Jets are able to rush the passer the inconsistent coverage in the secondary becomes less of a factor. But herein lies the issue, as the Jets struggle to consistently create pressure. Why? Well, it really comes down to the lack of an edge rushing presence. Asking three interior lineman to consistently create pressure won’t always pay dividends (as we’ve seen this season). Unless this team can start creating pressure off the edge with Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace (among others), we’ll continue seeing quarterbacks shred this defense via the quick passing game.

– Talent: When you’re a team breaking in a rookie cornerback on one side of the field, having a total liability on the other side isn’t exactly what a coaching staff wants to see. Unfortunately for the Jets, Antonio Cromartie has been just that, as he’s looked nothing like the version of himself from 2012. When your top defensive back (and arguably top defensive player heading into the season) struggles to defend short/intermediate routes as much as he does deep routes, and looks as if he’s clearly lost a step or two, it’s a recipe for disaster. If Cro doesn’t get better, Rex needs to consider sitting him down in favor of Darrin Walls…even if just for a short period. At the very worst, this will give the Jets an idea of what the future of the secondary looks like.

– Lack of Roster Flexibility: Rex loves his players. That’s not a secret. And while it’s a terrific way to motivate his players, it also results in Rex starting players who, at times, really aren’t deserving (see Cromartie comment above). It also leads to Rex trusting his guys more than he should. It’s never been more evident than with Cromartie this season, as Rex seems blind to the fact that No. 31 is a completely different player than he was in 2012. Most coaches would make adjustments for something so obvious. Unfortunately for Jets fans, Rex appears incapable of change.

So what can Rex do? Well, if he’s not willing to put different people on the field then he’ll need to start getting creative. He’s no longer in a position to put his corners on an island. While it worked during the days of Darrelle Revis opposite Cromartie, this secondary is nowhere near the same.

Rex made a comment about playing Cover Two the rest of the season to limit the amount of big plays from opposing offenses following the Jets loss to Buffalo last Sunday. While he wasn’t totally serious, his comment comes with some merit as he’s slowly (very slowly) coming to the realization that his corners need safety help. Whether Rex starts getting creative with blitz packages, or just gives his CB’s more help, there are changes to be made on this defense. If Rex wants to save this season (and possibly his job), he’ll need to adjust.

Connor Rogers – The Jets issues on defense are quite simple. They have been torched in the quick passing game, early on in their match ups. Their poor work in press coverage is giving the front seven no time to create a pass rush.

As they press up after being torched underneath, quarterbacks begin to sling the ball deep over their heads (I’m looking at you Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner). The addition of Ed Reed can help with this if Rex Ryan plays him in a deep zone, not constantly blitzing him off the edge. A package that allows Reed to sit in a deep middle zone while Antonio Allen helps in man coverage would be an interesting concept. Another idea would be to start Darrin Walls over Dee MIlliner, a player who has proven himself as a solid cornerback in limited snaps.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports