Our look at the state of the roster is winding down. Now we take a look at the safeties. Click here for a refresher on our rankings.
Jim Leonhard (2-B)
I think Leonhard has reached "so underrated that he's overrated" status. When he got hurt last year, it seemed like people were more worried than when guys like Darrelle Revis and Kris Jenkins went down. Make no mistake, though. Leonhard is a good player. He is very good against the run, a solid blitzer, and always seems to be around the ball making plays. He is an intangibles guy. His weaknesses are mainly the tangibles. He is small and not very fast. Safeties in these days have to face a lot of big and fast tight ends, where Jim gets exposed in man coverage. He is not a top safety, but you are in good shape when he is the ninth best player on your defense. You just need a good cover guy to pair with him so you can hide his liabilities there.
Brodney Pool (2-B)
Brodney was a disappointment early and then stepped up once Leonhard left the lineup. He started making big plays near the line against the pass and run. He was pretty good in coverage. His emergence makes me wonder whether having Leonhard makes him a bit redundant since they do a lot of the same things. I would like to see him back, though. He really emerged as he got more comfortable with the system.
Dwight Lowery (2-C)
Lowery seems like a better fit at safety than corner. He isn't terribly fast, which is less of an issue at safety because he will not have to run with receivers all the way down the field. He gets a head start. He will cover more tight ends, who tend to be slower than receivers. He is also good at diagnosing plays in front of him than playing man at the line. Dwight is a big play guy. Some might think this is too high. I only ask you to think about what the Jets did against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger in the Playoffs. There is nowhere to hide a bad safety against those guys.
Eric Smith (3-E)
I think Smith just plays in the wrong era. In an earlier day, he could have been a star. He is excellent against the run. He just is not fast and athletic enough to match up against today's tight ends consistently. Rex Ryan found him a niche playing closer to the line and putting him at linebacker in passing downs, where his cover skills are better than the average linebacker. He does good things, but I think he is more limited than the press he gets would suggest.
James Ihedigbo (3-E)
I think Ihedigbo took the role Abram Elam would have had in a Rex Ryan defense. He is a blitzer from the safety position. The coaching staff is still working on him in coverage, and he's a solid special teamer.
Emanuel Cook (4-F)
Pool, Smith, and Ihedigbo are all going to be free agents so he might have a real chance at making the team.