Jets Defense: Can They Really Step Up?

Daniel SmithCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2008

The NY Jets made many improvements in their defensive personnel this past off-season. After ranking 29th in Rushing Yards Allowed last season, and allowing an average of 134 yards on the ground per game, no one can argue just how necessary the new players are.

One player that did nothing to stop the rushing attack was Dewayne Robertson. A former first-round pick, the Jets traded up in 2003 to acquire him fourth overall. But Robertson never lived up to that potential.

Some reasons for this were his lack of size. To be an effective defensive tackle, he was going to need more meat to stop the run.  Also, the 3-4 defensive scheme the Jets run does not work with an undersized DT.

The Jets parted ways with him, sending him to the Denver Broncos for a conditional draft pick. 

In order to find a suitable nose tackle for the 3-4 scheme, the Jets acquired Kris Jenkins from the Carolina Panthers. Jenkins was a second round pick for Carolina in the 2001 NFL draft. Entering his seventh season, Jenkins is a three time Pro Bowl selection.

When Jenkins is in shape and motivated he is a powerful defensive tackle that excels at stopping the run. At 6-foot-4, 360 pounds, Jenkins is expected to stuff the middle of the defensive line better than Robertson ever had.

Jenkins size will allow the 3-4 defense to run properly. Players like defensive end, Shaun Ellis, will no longer have to compensate for Robertson's inability to control two-gaps. The inside linebackers will also have more room to roam while Jenkins keeps the center and guards occupied.

However, the weakest link on the defensive line may be Kenyon Coleman.

He did record 83 tackles last season, but only produced a sack and a half. With the amount of time the Jets defense spent on the field last season, Coleman has to establish himself as more of a presence.

Jets fans are also hoping Bryan Thomas can return to his 2006 form. The good thing about Thomas is his versatility. Much like the newly acquired Vernon Gholston, Thomas can play defensive end and linebacker. This would allow the Jets' to give teams different looks if one scheme isn't working.

It'd be interesting to see a 4-4 defense with Ellis, Jenkins, Coleman, and Thomas on the line. That would create an opportunity for Calvin Pace, Eric Barton, David Harris and Gholston to be on the field at the same time. It is a stretch, but no harm can come from using it occasionally. 

In the defensive backfield, fans already know Kerry "Hollywood" Rhodes. He will continue to produce Pro Bowl caliber numbers, and hopefully, receive an invitation to Hawaii next season.

Second-year man, Darrelle Revis, did a great job last season at cornerback. There was a steady improvement from game to game. If his progression continues as such, Revis will be an excellent contributor.

However, he is still young, and his weaknesses can be exploited by more experienced quarterbacks. If Revis can shut down a team's primary wide receiver that will force passing plays to try and attack the other side of the ball.

That leads an offense to Justin Miller. The fourth-year man out of Clemson, has great speed and decent hands, but he is unproven as an NFL corner back.  Coming off major knee surgery, he may be a liability for the Jets if he teams choose to pick on him. If he's ineffective, the depth behind him is unimpressive.

David Barrett has good hands, but lacks the speed to keep up with most receivers. He's been burned in coverage a few times. Hank Poteat ghas played well, but in his career he's never shown that he deserves to be a starting corner back.

There is one other option, and it comes in the form of Dwight Lowery. Drafted out of San Jose State, he has shown good hands, speed, and flashes of having what it takes to be a starter. 

He may even be able to replace Justin Miller as a return specialist, having returned a punt for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

Fans shouldn't be surprised if Lowery beats out the competitions and starts opposite of Revis when the season starts.

Attention should also be paid to Abram Elam. He showed heart last year and demonstrated his drive to play. If he starts opposite Rhodes, he can have a very solid season.

The Jets' linebackers may be the very pest part of the defense.

If Pace builds upon the season he had with the Arizona Cardinals, recording 98 tackles with six and a half sacks, then he'll be worth every penny the Jets spent to land him. And rookie Vernon Gholston has all of the physical tools to be a threat like he was in college.

Eric Barton and David Harris are locks to have good seasons.

If the New York jets play the way they are expected to play, they can be a Top 10 Defense. The only liability lies in the secondary. The youth the Jets have in the backfield shows promise, but they will need to step up.

Go Jets!