The New York Jets have improved many of their units, but no transformation has been quite as big as the one that has occurred to their secondary. With the return of some familiar faces and the arrival of some new ones, the Jets secondary looks to be of the scariest in the league on paper for next season.
New general manager Mike Maccagnan has wasted no time improving his defense this offseason, recruiting former Jets’ cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to the Big Apple as well as welcoming in cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist.
The Jets ranked 14th against the pass last season, falling right in the middle of the pack in the NFL. Their Achilles heel, however, was the inability to swing the momentum of the game with turnovers. The Jets defense ranked dead last in 2014 with a league-low six interceptions. The four newly-acquired players signed by the Jets combined for an incredible 10 picks last year, headlined by Skrine’s four.
Last season, the Jets played their finale with cornerbacks Marcus Williams and Darrin Walls, who were supported by Jaiquawn Garrett and Calvin Pryor at the safety positions.
With the new signings, Revis and Cromartie will easily slot in at the top of the depth chart with Pryor and Gilchrist manning the safety spots. This is already an exponentially better defense that should frighten opposing offenses.
The Jets ranked number five in the NFL in terms of stopping the rush last season, a strength that should continue into next season. With team’s struggling to move the ball on the ground against the Jets, they will look to beat them with the pass, a strategy that worked out more often than not last season. However, this time, the opposition’s number one receiver will be covered by shutdown All-Pro Darrelle Revis. On the opposite side of the field will sit Antonio Cromartie, who at 31 years old is still a more than viable number two option at cornerback.
Bringing back Revis and Cromartie wasn’t just an attempt to satisfy a fanbase that didn’t want to see either gone. Both players are still premier cover corners and were two of the best options on the open market. The fact that the Jets also nabbed Skrine shows just how much the Jets value the cornerback position.
Simply put, the Jets should have one of the league’s top defenses next year. There are still a ton of variables including current free agents and the NFL draft that will influence how the Jets’ roster as well as the rosters of opposing teams will shake out. There’s also the looming possibility that the Jets will still be inept on offense, meaning a strong defense won’t really change the outcome of the Jets season.
Perhaps overlooked is a cornerback that will likely land third or fourth on the depth chart next season: Dee Milliner. An Alabama product, Milliner picked off three passes in 13 games during his rookie season. After playing only three games last season (against world class quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, no less) Milliner will look to bounce back next year with an amazing amount of support. Quarterbacks may pick on Milliner as the weak link when Cromartie and Revis are also on the field, but this will give Milliner an opportunity to shine or fail on his own accord.
Current Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan crafted one of the league’s most fearsome defenses in his early years with the Jets, a strength that directly led the team to two AFC Championships. Now, under similarly defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles, the Jets will look to win games with an overpowering defense once again. Bowles also coached Cromartie on his excellent Arizona Cardinals defense last season, and the tandem doesn’t look to miss a beat in a transition to New York.
While uncertainty still abounds, the Jets offense only needs to help the defense at this point in time. The Jets ranked 21st in total offense last year, a number that should be on its way up. No one knows exactly how the offense will look, but the additions of Brandon Marshall, James Carpenter, and Ryan Fitzpatrick look to at least try to improve the Jets offensive effectiveness.
The longer the offense stays on the field, the less the defense needs to work. And if the Jets offense is good enough to start taking leads? The secondary becomes that much scarier as it can expect teams to pass in an attempt to overcome a deficit.
It’s way too early to be thinking about the dynamics of the Jets offense, how the overall defense looks, or even who the starting quarterback will be. Free agency is still on-going and everything can change with a strong draft.
But at this point in time, it’s easy to say the Jets have one of the best secondaries in the league, and it is refreshing to see Mike Maccagnan quickly making beneficial roster moves for the Gang Green