4 New York Jets Defenders Who Need to Step Up or Get Benched vs. Patriots
For two weeks now, the New York Jets defense has had terrible performances as it has allowed 346 rushing during the two-game skid. A statistic like that is rare for a Rex Ryan defense as the first time a rusher ran for more than 100 yards against the Jets during his first two years was Week 15 of last season when Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 100 yards exactly after a change a few days after the game.
This week, the Jets defense will go up against one of the toughest offenses, the New England Patriots. Tom Brady, Wes Welker and the nine other starters will be looking to redeem themselves and tear the New York defense to pieces after their embarrassing home playoff loss in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs.
With injuries starting to take a toll and some faulty play, the Jets need to rebound this week against the Patriots if they still want a shot at making the playoffs. Here is the list of players that will be crucial on defense if the Jets want to make the proverbial 180-degree turnaround.
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All Cornerbacks Besides Revis
While having a shutdown cornerback on one side of the field, the other side cannot just let opposing receivers get wide open and make catches for big gains.
So far this season, of the other three cornerbacks that play alongside Darrelle Revis, Kyle Wilson has been the only one to truly standout as a quality player. Against Baltimore he was able to cover the men he was covering and even deflected what could have been a touchdown pass, forcing the Ravens to kick a field goal—not that it mattered by the end of the night.
Unlike Wilson, Antonio Cromartie and Donald Strickland have been slacking. Against Oakland, Cromartie had four massive penalties called against him, whether it was pass interference or holding. He also had a fumbled kick return, which drastically changed the complexion of the game, but that is something to talk about if this was a special teams slideshow. Cromartie also had another penalty called against him in the game against Baltimore, but it did not have much of an effect on the game.
The reality is, the Jets are not paying Cromartie so much money to lose games for them through penalties and poor coverage. They gave him a very high-paying contract in the hope that he would mirror Revis as a shutdown cornerback. And so far, he has not done much to show for it.
Meanwhile, the veteran Strickland has also had a tough time covering opponents. Against Baltimore, there was one good play Strickland had on third down where he was able to wrap up the receiver two yards away from the first-down marker. Somehow Strickland managed to mess up what would have been a great stop for the Jets by not bringing the receiver down and allowing him to fight for the extra yardage, which he gained. On several other plays, Strickland was getting beat by the opposing receiver and not playing the way the Jets hoped when they brought him back in August.
The Jets cornerbacks have some work to do if they want to contain Wes Welker and the Patriots receiving corps, or else it will be a long day for Revis and Co. as the Patriots look to pass all over the Jets on Sunday.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed as if the Jets safeties were playing well as they only had a bad play every so often, but nothing that meant they should hit the panic button. Over the last two weeks, Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith have not been playing well. At all.
As you can see by the photo, the safeties (primarily Smith) and the rest of the team had a hard time stopping Darren McFadden and the Raiders' run attack. Not only that, but the two struggled in coverage against the Ravens, especially tight ends.
Sure, the two are undersized (especially Leonhard) to be playing against tight ends, but that just means they need to be more creative with how they cover them. Size is not always the deciding factor as to who will win the one-on-one battle in the NFL. Just take Danny Woodhead as an example—the strong little guy ran all over plenty of defenses last year and almost made it onto this year's Madden cover. What has made Woodhead successful is not his ability to overpower linebackers and other defensive players, but that he has been able to use his speed and agility very well to get in and out of spaces quickly, into open space and/or the end zone.
Therefore, Smith and Leonhard need to step up this week. Size should be no excuse as both players posses skills that tight ends and slot receivers may not have. Also, lucky for them this week they will not have to worry about the size difference too much as they go against Aaron Hernandez and Ron Gronkowski as the tight ends for the Patriots.
This week will be a big test for Jamaal Westerman with the season-ending injury to outside linebacker Bryan Thomas. Westerman filled in for Thomas when he tore his Achilles against the Ravens on Sunday, and although he did a solid job by making sure he found the ball and helping with tackles, this week will be defining for the rest of his season.
According to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, the Jets visited with former Patriots linebacker Tully-Banta Cain. Although there is no news of the Jets bringing him in this week, it is very possible they could add him to the roster next week. If the Jets sign Cain, it could be the end of Westerman's short stint as a starter.
The former Bills bust played a great game on Sunday as he used his speed off the edge to create pressure on Joe Flacco. His ability to create pressure led to sacks or many of Flacco's incomplete passes throughout the game. This addition was a great decision by Mike Tannenbaum and Co.
Although Maybin played well against the Ravens, that does not mean he is guaranteed a spot on the roster for the rest of the season. In order for him to keep his place on the Jets defense, he will need to play with the same intensity and produce in a similar way he did against the Ravens.
Contrary to what the Bills front office and coaching staff thought, Maybin has shown he actually has the skill set to play in the National Football League only after two months of being with Rex Ryan and his defensive unit. The game against the Ravens could have been a fluke or the start of something new—we'll see which it is against the Patriots and during the rest of the season.
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