Last week we compared the Jets' offensive personnel by position group with what they had a year ago. Now let's take a look at the defense. As a reminder, we are examining whether Jets fans should feel more confident in a position than they would have at this time last year. We all know Darrelle Revis missed 14 in 2012, which alone might make the position likely to increase his production in 2013 with the addition of Dee Milliner. We did not know Revis would get hurt at this time in 2012, though. This is a comparison of where the team was before the start of training camp last year, and what we know then against where things stand right now.
DL: Just like last year, the Jets have a highly touted first round rookie people are expecting a lot from. Last year it was Quinton Coples. This year it is Sheldon Richardson. We did not know the extent to which Sione Pouha's back would give out at this time last year. We were expecting a top flight nose tackle. Mike Devito was also an excellent run stopper, who is now in Kansas City. The Jets have added Antonio Garay, who is a big injury risk. He does not stack up to what the team lost. On the positive side, we are now expecting Muhammad Wilkerson to have an All Pro type season. We were hoping a year ago. All things considered, though, the Jets lost more than they gained. Defensive line might end up being a strength, but the unit does not look as strong as it did a year ago.
OLB: To say this position is a major area of concern for the Jets might be an understatement. On one side, you have Quinton Coples, a guy with excellent athletic ability but one who is largely unproven as a stand up rusher off the edge. On the other side, you have the washed up Calvin Pace leading an uninspiring position battle against the likes of limited upside guys like Garrett McIntyre and Ricky Sapp. Would you believe that the situation is actually better than it was this time last year? Coples is indeed an unknown, but he is a premium talent. Last year, the Jets were banking on Bryan Thomas to carry the load. Thomas was on his best day a fringe starter. Coples' unproven nature cuts both ways. He might end up becoming a game-changing player at the position. I also was not drinking the Aaron Maybin Kool-Aid last year. Maybin's 2011 production was based on a lot of hustle plays and coverage sacks. I was expecting him to disappoint. I am much more confident in Antwan Barnes to produce as a situational pass rusher.
ILB: This comes down to how much you bought into Bart Scott's "dropped weight," "best shape of my career," "one step faster," routine last summer. I did not at all. Scott looked like he heading for a big decline, and he was indeed. I was worried at the time Rex Ryan would play Scott too much at the expense of Demario Davis. He did. We do not know how good Davis is, but Scott was so bad that a change was in order. Whether Davis will be a productive starter is unknown, but there is at least upside at the position where there was not a year ago. David Harris is more of a question mark than he was a year ago after a quietly bad 2012. I say losing Bart Scott is addition by subtraction, though.
CB: You should avoid viewing Dee Milliner as a direct replacement for Darrelle Revis. Revis was so good that one player cannot replace him. The responsibility will be spread through many players on the defense. With that said, in terms of pure personnel, the Jets have shipped Revis out, and Milliner was the biggest addition on the roster. Antonio Cromartie scores points for stepping up last year, but he's no Revis. This is still probably the strongest position on the team, but whenever you lose the best player in the league at his position, you have taken a step back.
S: I am a fan of the signing of Dawan Landry, but it is important to keep things in context. Despite his last name, his role is probably going to be replacing Yeremiah Bell as the steady veteran presence. He does not have the speed or playmaking ability of his brother. I think LaRon Landry's productivity can be a bit overstated, but the Jets have not really done anything to replace him.