Today the league sent an article in a release from the league talking about the evolution of the safety position. It has quotes from Jim Leonhard and Mike Pettine. Pettine's comments in particular are noteworthy. He talks about the complexity of today's offenses and the need to have smart people as the last line of defense who can diagnose things. Right or wrong, that kind of thinking probably has a lot to do with the Leonhard/Eric Smith starting safety combo the Jets are using. They lose something in an athletic sense. The Jets want their smartest two safeties out there. Whether what they gain in smarts makes up for the loss in athleticism is up for debate. Leonhard's comments kind of say bigger, slower players at the position are being phased out of the league. It reminds me a bit of Smith
Offenses are trending towards an NFL-record passing yards total in 2011. How can defenses combat the explosion of the passing game? Effective play from the safety position.
"The job is absolutely harder," says New York Jets safety JIM LEONHARD on playing safety in the NFL. "Offenses have morphed from using two-back, power-running formations to where they're always spreading you out. You used to be able to have a safety who could play in the box and one playing free but now that big safety is getting run out of the league."
While athletic ability and cover skills are vital for NFL safeties, the importance of dissecting offenses is not overlooked.
"You have to be very cerebral back there," says New York Jets defensive coordinator MIKE PETTINE. "You need to be able to stay on top of things because the game is so complicated now. There are a lot of moving parts because teams don't just line up and run at you. There are stacks, bunches, shifts, motion and tight ends and running backs lining up in places they never did before. It's a lot to keep up with."