However, when you compare the 2011 defense to the other defenses of the Rex Ryan era (in which the Jets ranked third and first), there's a pretty significant decline.
Here are the ways the Jets can return to defensive dominance in 2012.
One of the most intriguing chess pieces on the Jets is rookie defensive end Quinton Coples. In addition to his strength and athleticism, Coples brings a whole new element of versatility to the Jets' defense.
Knowing Rex Ryan's creative philosophies on defense, Coples will line up everywhere on the defensive line and even see some time at outside linebacker, as noted by Jenny Ventras of NJ.com.
Most importantly, the Jets will need to get an interior pass rush from Coples, which is an element to their defense that they have lacked for quite some time. If the Jets plan on slowing down the Patriots' offense, they will need to get into Tom Brady's face with interior pressure.
If Coples can provide those two basic elements to the Jets 'D in 2012, it will go a long way towards returning to their 2009 form.
Tight ends and slot receivers absolutely killed the Jets last season. As the rest of the league tries to deal with the advent of freak-of-nature tight ends, the utilization of a sub package known as "big nickel" is becoming more and more popular.
While a nickel defense adapts to the passing game by substituting a linebacker with a cornerback, the "big nickel" takes the concept one step further and removes another linebacker in favor of a safety.
While this certainly makes your defense a bit more susceptible against the run, the Jets have the run-stuffers up front to get the job done themselves with little linebacker support.
The Jets were able to add a multitude of safeties this offseason in LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Josh Bush and Antonio Allen. As bad as Eric Smith was as a full-time starter, he can be an effective player in sub-packages.
You’ll love Eric Smith at 300 snaps, you don’t like him at 1,000.
Because the Jets added much-needed depth at safety, they will be better-suited to deal with the Patriots' two-headed monster at tight end.
The Jets' run defense was strong up the middle, but they gave up far too many big plays on outside runs, especially in the Raiders' game where Darren McFadden went off for 171 yards and a 9.0 per carry average.
In short, a big reason why this occurred was because the Jets had a tough time setting the edge. As Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace get up in years, it would help to keep these run specialists fresh throughout the game and only use them on running downs.
Meanwhile, the Jets can bring in Aaron Maybin and Ricky Sapp to help out on third downs, where speed and finesse wins out over the heavy-footed veterans.
It is a generally accepted fact that Kyle Wilson made major strides in 2011 after being benched in the middle of his rookie season, but that fact remains that Wilson gave up far too many completions and is still not quite the player the Jets thought he would become.
Meanwhile, Ellis Lankster is drawing a ton of attention in training camp and has looked beyond impressive, according to Jake Steinberg of the Jets Blog, who thinks that Lankster has outplayed the former first-round pick:
— Jake Steinberg (@Steiny31) August 1, 2012
Whether or not Lankster is as good as Steinberg says he is remains to be seen; the fact is that the Jets need to be open-minded about who they play in the slot and not allow draft status to cloud their judgement as they try to improve against inside receivers and tight ends.
There is no secret that Rex Ryan wants to get back to running the ball more often, and for good reason. Not only does it keep the ball out of Sanchez's hands, but it also keeps the ball away from the Tom Bradys of the world.
The formula is simple: the more you run, the more time comes off the clock because of the lack of incompletions and general lack of big plays, thus leading to longer drives (hopefully). As a result, fewer plays are run by both teams, resulting in a fresher defense that is facing an offense with fewer opportunities.
Not only will the Jets accomplish this through conventional means of having Shonn Greene pound the rock, but the Wildcat package will also add another dimension to the running game that will help the Jets convert a few more first downs when they need it most.
When the Jets ranked first in the NFL in defense in 2009, they also topped the league in rushing yards as well. As the Jets defense slipped to third in 2010 and fifth in 2012, the running game dropped to fourth and 22nd, respectively.
Notice a trend?