Rex Ryan Favorite Jim Leonhard Hopeful He Can Get Healthy and Return to the New York Jets

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With the 2012 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, the New York Jets are looking to fill some major holes on both sides of the ball.

One of their most glaring needs is safety, which they addressed somewhat in free agency with the addition of former Washington Redskins strong safety LaRon Landry last month.

At the moment, Landry and Eric Smith would be the projected starters at safety, with the inexperienced Tracy Wilson the only other safety on the roster.

However, both Landry and Smith are at their best in the strong safety spot, and Wilson is probably going to be more of a special teamer than a key contributor on defense.

In our Rant Sports 2012 NFL Mock Draft, on the Jets behalf, I selected Alabama safety Mark Barron with the 16th overall pick. There’s certainly a lot of Alabama players to consider, but Barron is who I settled on.

Some say that Barron isn’t quite the player you’d want at the free safety position, however. He’s probably better than what the Jets have now, though. There may not be a solid, NFL-ready free safety in this draft.

For better or for worse, the Jets might not be able to turn the safety position into a strength in one offseason, so they’ll have to be creative and try to make sure the back of their secondary is solid, at the very least.

Each of the last two seasons, the Jets were dealt a devastating blow when starting safety Jim Leonhard went down with a season-ending injury.

Leonhard suffered a broken leg in 2010, but recovered and was having a strong 2011, before he tore up his knee in December and ended up on IR for the second time in as many years.

The 29-year-old Leonhard has be rehabbing since then, and he talked to Jenny Vrentas of the Star-Ledger about possibly returning to the Jets and playing another season under Rex Ryan.

“There’s still a very good possibility it could be the best situation for me,” he said. “You never know. Things could change in the next two weeks with the draft … Hard to try to predict the future.”

Leonhard would definitely give the Jets a boost in the back end of their secondary, provided he’s healthy and still capable of playing at the same level he has in the past.

“Knowing this defense and how it works, you honestly can never have too many safeties,” Leonhard said of Rex Ryan’s defense. “We’re not opposed to having three to four on the field at the same time.”

“You never know. I know Rex, and I know the defensive staff. I know the defense is a great fit for me, it’s just when the time comes, is it going to be the right situation?”

That remains to be seen. The Jets will almost certainly draft a safety, maybe two. But there’s no telling how ready a rookie(s) would be, stepping into the complicated system the Jets run on defense.

Leonhard, in the meantime, is continuing his rehab and hopes to start getting offers from NFL teams after the draft, when he’s able to prove that he’ll be ready to start the season.

“I always heal quickly, so I don’t feel like I’m going to have any issues coming back this year,” Leonhard said. “I’m just excited for the next month and a half, and to hopefully be where I want to be.”

I’d like to see him return. There’s really no downside to bringing him back for a fourth year in Green and White.


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Related Articles:

New York Jets Lose Jim Leonhard to Season-Ending Leg Injury for Second Straight Season 

Impact of Jim Leonhard’s Injury Made Its Presence Felt for the New York Jets

New York Jets Sign Safety LaRon Landry to a One-Year, $4 Million Deal

Rant Sports 2012 Mock Draft: New York Jets Select Safety Mark Barron

New York Jets Safety Eric Smith Played Five Weeks with Torn Meniscus


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