New York Jets Defense Needs to Show Something Against New York Giants Tonight

Cecil HarrisCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2009

BALTIMORE - AUGUST 24:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets watches a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 24, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Throughout the preseason, Jets coaches and players have acknowledged that the defense is well ahead of the offense in coach Rex Ryan’s first season.


While that’s not unusual for an NFL team, what is unusual is that the Jets’ defense has yet to show anything in either of the first two preseason games.


Yes, it will take a while for Ryan’s 4-6 defense system to take hold among his new players.


But the Jets’ defense will be expected to show some ferocity tonight in the annual preseason battle against the Giants.


The Jets’ defense showed nothing against the Rams or the Ravens to indicate that it’s going to be the kind of aggressive, ball-hawking, turnover-forcing unit that the Ravens—Ryan’s former team—has been during this decade.


One need only look back to the first quarter of the Jets’ 24-23 loss at Baltimore on Monday night to see the kind of defense about which Jets fans can only dream.


On Mark Sanchez’s first pass, the rookie quarterback faced intense pressure from linebacker Ray Lewis, resulting in an ill-advised pass into the ample breadbasket of nose tackle Haloti Ngata that was returned for a touchdown.


On Sanchez’s second pass of the game, the Ravens’ coverage confused the rookie, resulting in a throw that should have been picked off by Lewis and returned for a touchdown.


“I could’ve caught it,” Lewis said after the game, “but I didn’t want that one until the regular season.”


Certainly, the future Hall of Famer will get other pick-six opportunities this season as the leader of the stout Ravens’ defense.


But how long will it take for Ryan to elevate the Jets’ defense to that lofty level.


The expectation is for Ryan to do exactly that, because he has brought a trio of former Ravens defenders—linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and defensive end Marques Douglass—to the Jets.


And because Ryan has all but promised to reshape the Jets’ defense into the Ravens’ image.


But that may be easier said than done.


When Lewis was asked after last Monday’s game about his team facing Ryan, his former defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Lewis said, “I don’t care if you’ve coached for us or not, when you play against our defense, it’s tough.”


Sanchez can vouch for that. Two series into his first nationally televised appearance as Jets quarterback, his team was down 7-0. And it should have been 14-0.


How long will it be before opposing quarterbacks come away shaking their hands and panting after facing the Jets’ defense?


It would be encouraging to see Giants quarterbacks Eli Manning and David Carr struggle as much against the Jets as they did in last Saturday’s loss to the Bears.


That would be the first real sign of the preseason that the Jets’ defense is truly on the right track.