Thus far, the New York Jets' secondary has shown that it can overcome the loss of Darrelle Revis, as Antonio Cromartie has stepped up and filled the shutdown cornerback position. Yet Sunday's showdown against the New England Patriots will be an entirely different test for Gang Green.
When the Jets lost Revis for the year, they were forced to downgrade not only at the No. 1 cornerback slot but at every other position. Kyle Wilson became the new starter, Ellis Lankster the new nickel back, etc.
Over the last two weeks, the Jets have been fortunate to place the Texans and Colts, teams whose passing games revolve around their No. 1 receivers. While the downgrade from Revis to Cromartie was clearly significant, it is arguably of lesser significance than the subsequent downgrades throughout the rest of the cornerback depth chart.
Indeed, Cromartie is playing like an elite cornerback this season, more than capable of filling the No. 1 position. But is Kyle Wilson a true every-down player yet? Should Ellis Lankster really be on the field in passing situations?
Even with Revis, the Jets have often struggled against the Pats' high-octane passing attack. It's tough to attack the sidelines against Revis and Cromartie, so the Patriots have utilized Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and their talented tight ends to beat the Jets over the middle.
Aside from the memorable 2011 playoff victory where Rex Ryan redesigned the Jet defense overnight and a couple of games where Brady tried to force the ball to Randy Moss, the Patriots have succeeded against the Jets using this formula. The Pats defeated the Jets handily twice last year, scoring 67 points in the two games.
With Revis sidelined, the equation for the Pats doesn't change much. They may be able to attack Kyle Wilson on the outside some, but more likely they will just take advantage of the extra resources the Jets will require to defend the outside and continue to target the middle of the field.
Welker is not a great matchup for Cromartie, so Wilson may be tested in the slot. Lankster and Isaiah Trufant will be tested. Josh Bush and Antonio Allen will be asked to contribute in coverage against Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, which is no easy task.
One area in which the Jets might not suffer as much is dealing with the Pats' no-huddle offense. This wrinkle gave the Jets a lot of trouble last year, as Rex Ryan traditionally likes to use lots of sub packages and New England's no-huddle offense is primarily designed to prevent this. With half of their defense injured, the Jets don't have many sub packages left.
The no-huddle is the least of the Jets' current worries, though. Their inexperienced defensive backs will have to grow up fast in order to compete with Tom Brady and the Pats Sunday.