New York Jets Safety Jim Leonhard: A Problem for Naive Offenses

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2009

Jim Leonhard, aka the 'White Lightning', is set to have a breakout year with the new Jets defense.

He spent three seasons with the Bills as a reserve safety and special team’s guru before heading to Baltimore, starting 13 games at safety for the Ravens.

White Lightning got his nickname recording 69 tackles last year, one sack, one interception, one fumble recovery, and one touchdown. But his real coming out party was in last season’s playoffs when he recorded 16 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Now on a Jets squad led by former Ravens defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan as head coach, Leonhard should thrive and develop into a star safety.

He and two other carryovers from the Ravens, Bart Scott and Marques Douglas, already have the knowledge of the Jets defense.

“They know the tempo we want, they know the communication we want, they know how to build each other up,” said coach Ryan.

This should help Ryan to get a head start in implementing new schemes, and Leonhard’s leadership skills will be tested to assure the defensive backs are on the same page.

“I think it’s helped Rex to install the things he wants, get the players to buy in to things a bit earlier; I think that’s a big part of what us guys from Baltimore are here to do,” said Leonhard in an interview with SNY.

Leonhard will have his opportunities to develop as a player this year, facing a plethora of great receiving corps in just his own division, with Randy Moss, Lee Evans, Terrell Owens, Ted Ginn Jr., Joey Galloway, Wes Welker, and the list goes on.

“Some people are just kind of natural hitters and some just hide from contact. I’ve never been one to shy away from contact, I’m willing to throw my body in there and do whatever it takes.”

Looking at some of his highlights from last season I feel bad for any receiver that comes across the middle and underestimates the 5’8", 186 lb. safety.  

“They underestimate me, which is fine. They’ve been underestimating me for my entire career. You see someone that doesn’t give you so much credit. You go out there and kick his butt a little bit; it feels good that they realize they messed up.”

Leonhard will be returning kicks and playing alongside Kerry Rhodes at safety. The Jets hope that he will carry the load allowing Rhodes to make plays like he did last year behind First-team All-Pro Ed Reed (1.0 sacks, nine interceptions, two fumbles recovered).

“You can put talented players in a position to make plays, which is something Baltimore has done for years and years, and you see the success that can happen. Guys are realizing the opportunities they have and how many they’re are.

You see a lot of people walking around with smiles on the defensive side of the ball because they feel they can have a breakout year,” said Leonhard, with a smile.