The biggest changes figure to come on defense, which is Ryan’s area of expertise. The new Jets coach most recently served as the Defensive Coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens and he figures to bring a similar defensive style with him to New York.
Mike Pettine will serve as Ryan’s Defensive Coordinator. He was the linebackers coach at Baltimore for the past four seasons and is well versed in the system Ryan wants to implement.
The Ravens typically played a 3-4 defense under Ryan which featured stout run defense. Against the run, the front three are typically asked to fill their gaps and occupy blockers to free up the linebackers to make tackles.
Meanwhile, Ryan frequently blitzed different linebackers to keep opposing quarterbacks off balance. Terrell Suggs filled the role of primary blitzer in 2008 and managed 8 sacks.
The Jets are hoping that Vernon Gholston, last year’s first round pick out of Ohio State, can assume a role similar to the one Suggs played last season for Baltimore. Gholston was a non-factor as a rookie, getting in on only five solo tackles all season and failing to register a sack.
Ryan still believes Gholston has the potential to make a significant contribution for the Jets this season. “You see some things in his game and I say ‘I would like to coach this young man,’” Ryan said.
The Jets signed former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott as a free agent this summer to help the team learn the defense. Scott will likely take a similar role to Ray Lewis, roaming from sideline to sideline to stuff the run and occasionally blitzing the quarterback. He filled in well for Lewis in 2007 when Lewis missed significant time due to injuries.
The Jets new defense will be more aggressive than in past seasons if Ryan has his way. “Read and react is for somebody else,” Ryan said in his introductory press conference. “We’re going to attack … you’re going to see the fur fly.”
In Baltimore, Ryan also had one of the best safeties in the game in Ed Reed. Reed usually played centerfield in passing situations and always found himself around the ball. Kerry Rhodes is the top candidate to fill that role although Rhodes also excels at sneaking up into the box and stuffing the run.
The addition of ex-Eagles CB Lito Sheppard gives Gang Green two solid cover corners. Sheppard is an experienced DB while Darrelle Revis remains one of the best young DBs in the game and is just starting to come into his prime.
Strong play at cornerback will allow Ryan to be more aggressive defensively and will allow him to be comfortable that his team can blitz the opposing quarterback while keeping big plays by the opposition to a minimum.
While the defense will learn Ryan’s system, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was retained so most of the changes on offense will be due to changes in personnel.
The Jets lost veteran quarterback Brett Favre and will replace him with either first round draft choice Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens. Both potential starters lack significant NFL experience with Sanchez being a rookie and Clemens having made only eight starts in his pro career.
The Jets also lost wide receiver Laveranues Coles in the offseason, leaving them thin and inexperienced at wideout. In addition, they lack a difference maker and an established deep receiving threat.
With a raw quarterback and a lack of depth at wide receiver, expect the Jets to emphasize the running game and short passing game even more in 2009. Last season, New York ranked 9th in the NFL in yards gained per game on the ground. To make the playoffs in Ryan’s rookie year as head coach, they will have to at least do as well this season.
The Jets have depth at running back, especially if Thomas Jones settles his contract differences with the club and returns as the starter. Even if Jones is dealt before the start of the season, third round pick Shonn Greene is a straight ahead runner with a similar style to Jones while the speedy Leon Washington adds speed and the ability to break a long gain on any play.
Although the offensive will likely emphasize the running game, don’t expect Ryan to be passive. “You’ve heard of KISS philosophy (keep it simple stupid) but we’re going to have a KILL philosophy... keep it likeable and learnable” he said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but we’re going to make them full speed. We’re going to be an attack team, on both sides of the ball and special teams.”
Expect the biggest changes on the defensive side of the ball for the Jets this year under Rex Ryan. It may take a little time to learn the new scheme on defense, but like his father Buddy Ryan before him, the Jets new head coach has a proven defensive system that has worked consistently in the NFL.
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