Former Buffalo Bills Safety Jim Leonhard to be a Leader on New York Jets Defense

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 26:  Jim Leonhard #42 of the Buffalo Bills returns a punt and is tackled by Kenny Kern #48 and Justin Kurpeikis #56 of the Cleveland Browns  on August 26, 2006 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Jim Leonhard made a lot of plays in the Baltimore Ravens playoff run last year. Nicknamed "White Lightning", he 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 the Bills let him slip away after his contract expired. Baltimore signed him two months later to a one-year contract, after seeing how he filled in impressively in 2007 for expected starter at free safety this year for the Bills, Ko Simpson.

He started 13 games at safety for the Ravens and his playoff performance caught so much of then-Baltimore’s defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s eye, that the now-Jets head coach brought him along, expanding his role in the Big Apple.

Much has been said of Leonhard’s leadership skills even before he sat in the locker room for more than 19 games with Ray Lewis, the man who redefined defensive leadership.

Aside from his defensive role, where he is expected to supplement Kerry Rhodes, Leonhard is going to be returning punts, utilizing his playmaking ability.

White Lightning will face the Bills twice next season. The 5’8", 186-pound playmaking safety says he loves to make a player think twice before underestimating him.

“I’ve never been one to shy away from contact, I’m willing to throw my body in there and do whatever it takes," said Leonhard in an interview with SNY.

As a free safety against the Bills, Leonhard will be over the top of either Evans or Owens. Can he back his words up with his play against the Bills stacked receiving corps and elite special teams unit?

“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 said.

Let’s face it; now on a Jets squad led by defensive-minded Ryan as head coach, Leonhard could thrive and develop into a star safety alongside Rhodes.

“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, who helped Ravens go from 5-11 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008.

The Jets defense is no joke. Take into account they also signed Bart Scott from Baltimore and Lito Sheppard from the Eagles, to go with an already stacked defense featuring Shaun Ellis, Darrelle Revis, and Calvin Pace (although he will be sitting out the first four games).

The Jets' spent the majority of their offseason energy on defense.They may feel threatened to stop three unpredictable offenses in their division (NE, Buf, and Miami).

The Bills should definitely take into account Leonhard when they play the Jets weeks six and 13.

With all of Buffalo's playmakers on offense, the Bills-Jets matchups will be quite a battle.