Heading into the preseason, the New York Jets thought they were in good shape at the safety position. However, the turmoil at corner has caused upheaval throughout the secondary, and there are still some questions about what exactly the starting lineup will look like.
Starters: Calvin Pryor, Antonio Allen
Reserves: Dawan Landry, Jaiquawn Jarrett
Allen has spent quite a bit of time at corner recently, but the impending returns of Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson should lead to him being shifted back to safety, where he is a better fit. At the end of the day, the most likely scenario seems to be that the Jets will pair second year man Allen with first round pick Pryor, giving the Jets a young, versatile, and talented set of safeties.
Determining what position these two play may be a little more difficult, as both are strong safeties by trade but have some good cover skills. Pryor is a perfect fit for the Doug Plank role in the Jets’ 46 defense, playing close to the line of scrimmage and using his explosiveness and sledgehammer hitting to disrupt the running game. Allen is good against the run as well and has better man-to-man cover skills, while Pryor has more range to cover the deep middle in a centerfield role. Allen and Pryor should frequently exchange roles and responsibilities, and they should be a very effective tandem. It doesn’t really matter whether one is designated as a free safety and the other as a strong safety as long as they get the job done.
The veteran Landry may end up losing his starting job, but he is still going to see plenty of playing time. His intangibles are extremely valuable to the Jets, and his intelligence and experience will be crucial tools for Allen and Pryor to lean on. Landry is a good run stopper in his own right, and the Jets used plenty of three safety looks last season. Even if he doesn’t start, Landry is still very important to the Jets.
The battle for the last spot is still open, as Jarrett is trying to hold off Josh Bush and Rontez Miles. Jarrett played well for the Jets last season and is a good special teamer, and he brings the same hard hitting, run stopping skills the Jets’ other safeties do. Bush is more of a coverage player, which offers a nice change of pace. Miles is a bit behind the other two, but has shown promise and the Jets would certainly like to have him on the practice squad again this season.
The competition between Jarrett and Bush could come down to tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (the team that drafted Jarrett in the second round in 2011), and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The only way both players could make the team is if the Jets committed to moving Allen to corner permanently, which seems very unlikely. Barring a monster game from Bush, it looks like Jarrett will earn the spot due to his experience and strong special teams play.
Pryor and Allen are a very promising tandem, and the Jets need them to realize their potential quickly. If they develop, the Jets could have a formidable safety pairing. Having Landry as an insurance policy helps as well, and the Jets have to be happy they have a solid group of safeties to support their questionable cornerback situation.