New York Jets Positional Breakdown: Defensive Backfield (Part 1)
Although the Jets as an organization are looked at and quickly laughed at, their defense does not rub people that way. People most often characterize the Jets' defense by calling the defenders "outspoken" or "great in coverage."
With an influx of young talent on the defensive line, the front men will be in place for the next 10 years as long as Kenrick Ellis continues to progress.
The linebacking corps is also a huge mess: all four starters have been speculated to leave this offseason (by Jets fans mainly). The Jets remain non-committal regarding Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Bryan Thomas' future with the team, leaving the Jets with only one starter from the previous season, David Harris, supposed to remain a Jet.
But that is not the group I will be writing about It's the defensive backfield. In a league where quarterbacks steal all the headlines, I have decided to analyze the roster from defensive backfield to quarterback.
In this article, I will examine the current state of the Jets' defensive backfield, and then mention many safeties and corners who General Manager John Idzik should look at during the free agency period and during the draft.
Last Year's Starters and Stats
Grading the Position
As you can tell, the statistics are all over the place for this group. No player looks incredibly impressive just by looking at the stats although you could make a case for Lankster, Landry, and Cromartie.
The cornerback position fills out as one of the best in the league. Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback when on the field. Antonio Cromartie is a true No. 1 corner as evidenced by his brilliant season. Kyle Wilson, aside from a few mistakes in deep coverage, was a solid No. 2 corner although he must overcome his immaturity. Isaiah Trufant was a fantastic nickel back and the Jets should keep Trufant as an integral part to their future. Finally, Lankster and Aaron Berry provide okay depth, both former starters for other teams.
On the other hand, the fate of the safety position is contingent on the free agency period. If the Jets can retain LaRon Landry, they are taking one giant step forward. Similarly, keeping Yeremiah Bell will keep the leadership of the defensive backfield in tact. There is decent depth at the two safety positions with Antonio Allen and Josh Bush filling in well.
The total grade for the defensive backfield is A+ if Landry and Bell re-sign, A if only Landry stays, B+ if only Bell stays, B- if neither stay.
There are a lot of potent safeties in the free agent market, which is why losing Bell or Landry may not be the worst thing to happen to the Jets. Here are 3 cornerbacks and safeties whom Gang Green could look at:
1. Marcus Trufant, CB/S: The older brother of defensive back Isaiah Trufant, Marcus comes over with a stunning resume. Age is definitely a factor, but his value is much lower due to his age and the fact that he was behind Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner on the depth chart.
2. Jim Leonhard, FS: Nobody knows the Jet defense better than Jim "Lionheart" Leonhard. He is a bit undersized but was incredibly successful in Gotham just two years ago. Injuries did derail his last two seasons on the Jets, but Ryan's patience with Landry should translate well with Leonhard.
3. Louis Delmas, FS: Speaking of injury prone safeties, Delmas is the 2013 version of LaRon Landry. He has loads of talent but has missed 15 games in the past two seasons. Regardless of who the Jets re-sign, they should definitely take a long look at Delmas. He could play free safety with Landry or Bell playing strong safety.
If, for some reason, the Jets do not sign any of these defensive backs, here are five options to look at in the draft:
1. Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International: Cyprien looks poised to be the leader of whichever defensive backfield he enters. He has confidence, and is very friendly with NFL players Louis Delmas and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cornerback, EJ Biggers. He should have a long NFL career.
What do you think of the plan?
2. Philip Thomas, FS, Fresno St.: With the Jets hiring Thomas's former coach, Tim McDonald, to be the teams' new defensive backs coach, this is starting to seem much more likely. Thomas is a total ballhawk and a complete free safety. One of the best coverage safeties, Thomas is rangy and athletic enough to stick around with fast tight ends.
3. Eric Reid, FS, LSU: Once considered to be a headliner of this year's safety class, Eric Reid took a huge step this past season but is actually projected to be a top five safety in the draft. It may have something to do with the fact that many safeties have come out of seemingly nowhere and put up massive seasons, but more importantly, it's that Reid just does not look like he can be an NFL starting safety without help from a strong supporting cast.
4. Tyrann Matthieu, CB/S, LSU: The "Honey Badger" has been out of football for a year, but when he was in the lineup, he was one of the most dynamic returners and defensive backs in the SEC. If he stays out of trouble, he could contribute to most teams. His coverage ability is stunning, although he has a lot to learn about conducting himself properly.
5. Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Faulkner St.: Another safety with off the field issues, Armstrong went to Miami until he had to leave for off the field reasons. Still, he will be little more than a seventh-round pick and is one of those "low risk, high reward" players that teams cherish in the late rounds of the draft.
Will Agathis's Plan:
If all goes well, the Jets' defensive backfield would look like this:
Cornerbacks: (1) Darrelle Revis (with a new contract); (2) Kyle Wilson (Cromartie would be traded); (3) Tyrann Matthieu; (4) Isaiah Trufant; (5) Aaron Berry
Free Safety: Louis Delmas, Josh Bush
Strong Safety: LaRon Landry, Antonio Allen
So, what do you think? Am I crazy? Are there better candidates? Leave your opinion in the comments section and, as always, thanks for reading!
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