EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 11: Santonio Holmes #10 looks at Jim Leonhard #36 of the New York Jets as he lies on the turf after being injured during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jim Leonhard will undergo an MRI tomorrow on his right knee. It may not be his ACL,but he will miss the rest of the season, per sources
You just have to feel awful for Jim that his season ends with a devastating injury and likely a long and painful rehab for the second consecutive season. He will now be hitting free agency recovering from a second consecutive such injury.
This means those of us who wanted Brodney Pool to start will likely get our wish. We just will not get it the way we wanted. Pool will take over as free safety, where he was adequate last year, not strong safety, where he was dynamic. Eric Smith could probably not handle the coverage responsibilities of free safety. Smith's starting job is now probably secure as well.
Just as tough is losing Leonhard on punt returns. The Jets have tried a lot of guys back there, and Leonhard looked like the only guy with sure hands back there. Returning punts is a difficult thing to do. It is not easy for a rookie like Jeremy Kerley to both make a catch and read his blocks at the same time.
It's funny. A year ago I felt like people were pehaps overrating Leonhard's influnce. Now I feel like we have gone to the opposite extreme and maybe people underrate what he means. Leonhard is a good player. He is not an elite level guy, but he makes a positive difference out there with a lot of the big plays he makes. I think the whole "quarterback of the defense" thing is a tad overrated considering some of the problems the Jets have shown lining up. He is also not the best guy in coverage, but he makes a big difference covering when guys blow their assignments. I thought his absence last year was most pronounced in the AFC Championship Game. He might have made a difference flying into running lanes to bail out defenders who overpursued as Rashard Mendenhall cut back.
I am not convinced this was a devastating blow for the defense like losing an elite level player like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, or even Sione Pouha would have been (some have made compelling arguments otherwise), but I am still not happy to see this.