In the New York Jets’ blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the loss of safety Jim Leonhard was felt hard by the Jets.
Leonhard, who injured his knee in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs, was put on injured reserve with a December leg injury for the second straight season.
In Philadelphia, the Jets allowed 45 points in their first game without Leonhard, just as they did last year in their 45-3 loss in New England immediately following Leonhard’s injury.
Whether it’s related or not, there’s clearly a correlation between Leonhard’s sudden absence and a poor performance by the Jets’ defense.
He is the quarterback of the defense back there. It’s his job to make sure the Jets are always in the right coverages to stop the opposing offense. It’s been a rough adjustment for the Jets to not have him.
Safety Eric Smith, who has taken over a lot of Leonhard’s responsibilities, indicated after the 45-19 loss that the Michael Vick and the Eagles seem to know what they were getting from their pre-snap reads.
“A lot of the coverages, we’d line up, they’d look at us, look at Vick like, ‘Oh, they are in cover-zero, oh they are in cover-one,’ ” Smith said.
“You can’t really do anything about it,” he said. “You just have to cover your man.”
While Leonhard’s strength isn’t pure pass coverage, he almost never found himself out of position. The Jets were unable to disguise their coverages adequately without him, or so it seems.
“There’s nothing you can say,” said linebacker David Harris, who took the blame for a blown coverage than led to a 73-yard gain int eh second quarter. We got our butts kicked.”
Now, with a short turnaround for a game against the New York Giants on Saturday afternoon, the Jets have to figure out a way to fix it before Eli Manning exploits the same weak spots Vick did.
The clock is ticking.