While the Jets offense wasn't always firing on all cylinders last season it could at least rely on a solid and at times sparkling defense. This year? Not so much. While the Jets might have one of the most talented lines in football, they are still being forced to play Sheldon Richardson out of position at linebacker.
The linebackers might be much younger than they were a year ago, but youth and athleticism haven't trumped last year's experience. Last year's once great secondary is in utter ruins. Buster Skrine is being used as a boundary corner, where he is woefully out of position and as last week's game demonstrated he is in over his head. Calvin Pryor has regressed and, just like last year, Marcus Gilchrist is as good as the rest of the secondary is … which is to say bad. Darrelle Revis might be playing through injuries, but I see that as a weak excuse when you pay attention to his effort level...
Bent, does this defense need a total overhaul?
Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
It depends what you mean by a total overhaul. Do they need to completely replace most of the personnel? Or is it simply a matter of either getting rid of personnel that doesn't fit the system or tweaking the system to better utilize the talent they currently have? Which brings up another point. What IS their system at the moment? Have they lost their identity?
While it's not their *only* option, the coaching staff obviously feels that Richardson in that role is their *best* option, which is disappointing considering how all indications were that the plan was to play 3-4 but they don't seem to have the personnel for it. All offseason, we heard nothing but good things about guys who are mostly riding the pine when they should be playing that role. Furthermore, Richardson added weight specifically because he was told he wouldn't be playing linebacker and it shows when he's forced into open-field pursuit situations. In any case, as determined as they are to play that style, they'll randomly shift into a 4-3 for a series or two and that's not really working either.
I'm less worried about Skrine because he played far more on the outside this week (over 80 percent) than he had been the rest of the season (under 40 percent) so that was probably just a one-week experiment - one which was really badly timed with Jerome Boger and his flag-happy crew working the game. I'd also venture that until this week, he'd been outperforming everyone else in the secondary, so maybe they tried to put a bit more on his plate out of desperation.
I think it is easy to be "multiple" when you have the talent at all levels of the defense and this unit just doesn't seem to have it, or in the right combinations, or constituted the right way. The fact that they are forcing Richardson into the linebacker role is troubling and a pretty big indictment of the team's drafting at the OLB position in the last two years. Regardless of what they have or don't have I think this defense would be better suited to running a modified Tampa 2, perhaps with more nickel sub-packaging.
If the Jets allowed their quick defensive linemen to attack the run and pass and asked the secondary to play off-coverage (as they already seem wont to do) while asking them to be aggressive in the bargain, it might serve them better. I do think it comes down to who would play the middle linebacker position. Is David Harris gifted enough in coverage to make it work in Cover 3? Can the young Darron Lee pick up that mantle? Do you move a safety down into a modified Mike? I have no idea …
Corey asked me this week if I think defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers will be fired. I told him for Todd Bowles to fire Rodgers he would be essentially firing himself. Is that the right conclusion or do you think bringing in a new DC makes sense?
Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
That way of thinking makes sense. I think it's difficult to be aggressive when you're uncertain about what you're doing and perhaps simplifying things will mitigate that, especially for an inexperienced player like Lee or even Pryor. However, the players arguably deserve the brunt of the blame for not getting to grips with the system well enough. Do the struggles cause them to keep changing things up though or is it the other way around?
If Rodgers is fired that's going to look bad on Bowles even if he throws him under the bus, because that's a guy he hand-picked. This team needs to find a way to overcome the kind of adversity they never faced last year. Hopefully there's still time for the coaching staff to figure out a way around it, otherwise the overhaul at season's end is going to be personnel-based rather than strategic.
Dennis Thurman got a pass from Rex as long as possible, the same will happen with Rodgers and as I've asserted before I think this is more about personnel than anything else. The Jets would be wise to see what this defense is when given some more experience at ILB, talent at OLB, and some help at cornerback. Heck, the Jets might be able to free up a decent amount of space just in releasing Revis and Gilchrist; those two would be worth just shy of $13 million. This could help them find some young blood through free agency in their secondary. That $13 million doesn't even count the $10 million they could make available if the Jets don't bring Ryan Clady back.
The Jets can make the cap space available, which is great, but they still need to find some better defensive talent in the draft... No small feat for a team who could very well be in the QB hunt early in the draft.