The only certainties about the 2013 New York Jets secondary are that Antonio Cromartie will be leading by example, and a group of young, unproven players will be given a chance to shed that “unproven” label.
Everything else is anybody’s guess.
It’s probably safe to assume that free agent addition Dawan Landry has a leg up in the safety competition, as an eight-year veteran who is familiar with the Jets’ defensive scheme, having played under Rex Ryan in the past.
The question is, who will earn the other starting safety spot opposite Landry? Second-year men Antonio Allen (#39, above) and Josh Bush, both late-round draft picks by the Jets last year, are the most likely candidates.
Allen and Bush (a 2012 seventh-rounder out of South Carolina and 2012 sixth-rounder out of Wake Forest, respectively) became fast friends as rookies last year, and they’re well aware of what the Jets plans are.
“I can see it out there on the field,” Allen said of the competition. “[Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman] takes me out, puts Josh in. He takes Josh out, puts me in. So, it’s a healthy competition at the end of the day.”
As NFL rookies last season, the two safeties didn’t see all that much playing time on defense behind LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith, three players who are all no longer with the Jets this upcoming season.
Allen was only on the field for 72 defensive snaps as a rookie, 48 of which came in the final four weeks of the season. Bush, meanwhile, only saw 12 total snaps on defense. (Snap numbers courtesy of Pro Football Focus.)
However, with a year of experience under the watchful eyes of Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman, who get to see these “unproven” players in practice every day, you better believe the playing time will go way up for both of them.
The Jets use three-safety packages among many, many defensive looks, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Allen and Bush both play a significant number of defensive snaps this season, regardless of who wins the “starting” job.
Other safeties in camp include Jaiquawn Jarrett, a former 2011 second-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, and undrafted rookie Rontez Miles out of California University of Pennsylvania, who the Jets seem to like a lot.
Jarrett showed promise at times, but fell out of favor with the Eagles and was released last September. The Jets picked him up this offseason on a future/reserve contract, and now he’s looking to start fresh in 2013.
Allen, Bush, Jarrett and Miles will be battling all summer long, and the Jets are hoping that the cream rises to the top. Just because these guys are “unproven” doesn’t mean they’re incapable of solid play at the highest level.
We’ll just have to wait and see.