Coming into this season, my expectations for the Jets defense in 2010 were through the roof, and for good reason. The addition of Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor, and Kyle Wilson, combined with another year of experience in the system, could only mean for an even better defense than the top-ranked unit in 2009, right?
While the 2010 Jets "D" has been good, currently ranked 5th overall, seems to have been missing something over the past few weeks. While the defense had lapses earlier in the seaosn, it was easy to pin the issue on Darrelle Revis' hamstring injury. Now, Revis is playing "vintage" Revis football, but the defense still seems to give up more yards and points, often to far inferior talent.
In fact, this Jets defense is giving up 57 more yards per game than in the previous season. When you combine that fact with the reality that the Jets offense is much better and and hold onto the ball for much longer drives compared to 2009, something is clearly wrong with this unit.
Let's examine possible reasons for this decline:
Teams know to exploit the safties:
As an offensive coordinator preparing for the Jets, it does not make sense to try to get the ball to the outside to the WR's. As good of a CB tandem Revis and Cromartie are, they can only cover one guy at a time. Coordinators are learning that Leonhard and Smith/Pool aren't stellar in coverage, and tight ends and slot receivers account for a large portion of passing yards against the Jets.
Linebacking Core is too Slow:
Whether you like it or not, this linebacking core is better suited to stopping the run than dropping into coverage. While guys like David Harris are thumpers, they are not a good matchup against Reggie Bush-types. On the other hand, if you have ever wondered why the Jets are so good at run defense without a dominant inside defensive lineman, look no further than this group.
Blitzes are becoming Predictable:
Rex's first game as a head coach against the Texans in 2009 was the most dominant defensive performance I have seen against such a good offensive team like the Texans. The biggest reason was the Texans probably spent too much time watching 2008 Jets tape rather than 2008 Ravens tape. All season, teams had no idea what was coming. Now, teams have learned these blitzes and have figured out a way to pick them up. If a 7-man rush doesn't hit home in about three seconds, it is easy to get exposed.
No 4-man Pass Rush
This was a problem last year, but Rex was able to overcome it with his exotic blitzes. Now, the Jets expect at least an average rush with guys like Jason Taylor now in the mix. Now, this works in theory, but with the exception of a few key plays, the Jets' pass rush is nothing to fear, while Rex and co. are relying on it way too much.