This is the second half of a pair of articles grading the talent on the New York Jets roster during the 2012 NFL off-season. Just like the article on offensive talent, this article is broken down based on major position groups.
- Defensive Backs: Darrelle Revis is clearly the best cornerback (CB) in the NFL and Antonio Cromartie is a solid number two, but nickel CB Kyle Wilson is a liability. LaRon Landry is recovering from a major injury but if healthy he is essentially a more talented version of Eric Smith, effective against the run and dangerous when blitzing yet becomes in pass coverage, especially on deep routes. Newly signed veteran Yeremiah Bell isn’t a quality starter at safety but he will be part of a rotation of safeties including Smith and Josh Bush. The team hasn’t really made any major upgrades with the defensive back unit but this is a major component of the Jets’ defensive scheme. Overall Unit Grade: B
- Linebackers: The team’s new mandate that the majority of the front seven lose weight seems to have paid off. Linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace seemed to be refreshed after shedding weight thus far in OTAs, so both could potentially play better than they did in 2011. David Harris is the best linebacker on this unit and excels on passing downs. Aaron Maybin has gained a significant amount of weight, about 21 pounds, and seems motivated to continue his development as a situational pass rusher. Backup rookie Demario Davis is a promising player and will be utilized on passing downs when the team is in the 3-4 formation. Bryan Thomas is probably the worst starter on this unit since he lacks the athleticism, in his old age, to be effective in pass coverage. Overall Unit Grade: B
- Defensive Line: The team will be utilizing the 4-3 formation more frequently this year so the importance of the defensive line has been magnified. Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples has been impressive during OTAs and Sione Pouha looks to continue his dominance as the best run stopping defensive tackle in the NFL. Muhammad Wilkerson will most likely move inside to the defensive tackle position in the 4-3 but he should continue to improve in all formations. Mike DeVito will continue contributing as a 3-4 defensive end on running downs but he will no longer be a starter. Maybin could see time at defensive end in the 4-3. This unit is surprisingly the strength of this defense, which is good since the game is won/lost at the line of scrimmage. Overall Unit Grade: A-
Once again the New York Jets defense will most likely be vulnerable down the middle on passing downs but the pass rush seems to have improved significantly and could minimize that vulnerability. If Coples and Maybin continue to each display a quality motor the team could have two players with 10 or more sacks in 2012. Rex Ryan will be more actively involved with defensive play calling in 2012, and that can only help the team.
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