In my preview for the outside linebackers in the 2014 NFL draft, someone commented that we always go into the draft looking for an outside linebacker with pass rush capabilities, but we always end up coming out empty handed. That's a very valid point. However the same could be said for our safety position. Right now we have a distinct lack of real talent at the safety position, yet we did nothing to solidify the position through the draft over the last two years, both years I would argue where the safety position was high priority.
I took a look back at Rex Ryan's time with the Ravens, most notably his teams from 2005-2008 when he was defensive coordinator. In 2005 his starting safeties were Ed Reed and Will Demps. Reed suffered an ankle injury limiting him to 10 games. Ed Reed was obviously a 1st round draft pick who enjoyed some great years under Rex, Will Demps was an undrafted free agent that played for Rex just one year. In 2006, Demps was replaced with Dawan Landry a 5th round selection in the 2006 draft, they went on to have a 13-3 record.
In 2008, Dawan Landry was replaced with Jim Leonhard, an undrafted player that many people around here absolutely love. So apart from Ed Reed who was already in place when he arrived, Rex used two undrafted players and a 5th round selection to fill the vacant safety holes he experienced in his team. He had great success in Baltimore doing this as you can see by the defense, however Demps/Landry and Leonhard gave him solid contributions without being elite.
Currently on the Jets we have drafted Antonio Allen (7th round selection) and Josh Bush (6th round selection) to fill an area that has been a weakness for us for some time. I didn't like Kerry Rhodes all that much, but since he was traded we have really struggled to fill the safety position with talent. Landry last year was a great bargain, but we all knew that was a stop-gap, it was a short term fix to a long term problem. Rex has experienced success in the league utilizing players who have come on the scrapheap.
However the league is becoming a much more pass friendly league, box safeties look good but in the modern game you need athletic safeties who can run with tight ends, and play in the box. The Jets have seriously undervalued the position during Rex Ryan' time in charge, and that continued in the 2013 NFL draft. In a division where we will have to face Gronk and now Keller, should we be doing more to invest in a position that is becoming more valuable by the year.
I hope that Josh Bush and or Antonio Allen works out. I don't know if they will, this year we'll get to see a lot of Josh Bush (probable) and we'll get our answer. However if we continue to experience problems at the position, surely Rex has to invest in top end talent at the position going forward. Later this week or early next week I'll be doing my safeties preview for the 2014 NFL draft, and I have a feeling we'll need to be paying close attention to the group.