Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets is known for his prowess as a defensive-minded coach. The Jets’ defense was ranked second in the NFL for two-consecutive years in total tackles during Ryan’s first two seasons as head coach. But the team has slipped since then, going as low as 17th in 2011. Ryan showed his usual, yet more contained confidence in a recent press conference, saying the Jets will definitely make it back to the playoffs this time around. But Ryan is going to have a challenge with his defense this season. Specifically with his cornerbacks.
Because Ryan loves to run man-to-man coverage, the Jets really need a solid secondary unit. But the Jets have lost some amazing players over the past years, and this has affected their game. Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis were all critical pieces of the Jets’ secondary. The bad news is that today they are all gone. The worse news is that no one worthy has taken their place as of yet.
Even though the Jets’ entire secondary needs help, the most needy position is cornerback. In the current NFL era, the passing game is the bread-and-butter of most teams’ offenses. Strong cornerback coverage is the only way to shut down that type of offense, aside from a great pass rush. The Jets’ secondary got sliced and diced during Smith’s rookie season, which is surprising considering Ryan’s dedication to building a stealthy defense.
So let’s see who they’ve got: 2013 first-round draft pick Dee Milliner was chosen to succeed Revis, but he only has had spurts of greatness. The Jets have been plagued by inconsistent player effort. Free agency acquisition Dimitri Patterson needs to stay healthy. Newly drafted rookies Dexter McDougle and Brandon Dixon have a lot to prove. And Kyle Wilson, now the longest-tenured cornerback on the Jets’ roster (a scary thought), needs to prove that he can be a consistent starter.
What the Jets’ cornerback unit needs to succeed is leadership. Rookie Jets CBs had veterans Revis and Cromartie to look up to in the days of old. But now they are just a group of inexperienced youngsters, plus Patterson. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and defensive back coach Tim McDonald are going to have to take on the leadership role this season and inspire this group to be great.