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As we start the preseason, our job is to look at the biggest strength the Jets have. I think there are two areas we can explore. The first is the cornerback play. Antonio Cromartie has established himself as a top ten cornerback. Dee Milliner is considered one of the finest cornerback prospects in years, and Kyle Wilson has shown himself to be a versatile quality player. Say what you will about Wilson. Pass defense was a strength last year for the Jets. Wilson's role expanded after Darrelle Revis got hurt, and the pass rush did not fill the void. That has to be a credit to Wilson at least to some extent.
The second area of strength is interior pass rush. I know I just said the pass rush did not help the cornerbacks much last year, but there is a lot of room for optimism about what the Jets are going to be able to bring inside, three first round picks since 2011. Muhammad Wilkerson had a breakout 2012, looking like a man among boys for most of the year and not wearing down despite playing over 90% of snaps. The Jets are hoping Quinton Coples has a similar breakout campaign in his second season this year. He showed flashes as a rookie. Now his playing time is set to increase. While Coples is shifting to outside linebacker, Rex Ryan's defense moves star pass rushers around. Coples figures to see plenty of action inside to take advantage of his brute force. Joining them is rookie Sheldon Richardson, a versatile prospect with a rare burst. It isn't clear how much we can expect out of Richarson as a rookie, but asking him to be a complimentary pass rusher on passing downs does not feel unreasonable.
Which of the two is better? I would probably give an edge to the interior pass rush. There are three potential studs there. It is difficult to say whether everything will pan out, but the ceiling is higher than cornerback, where Kyle Wilson is solid but looks unlikely to ever become an elite level player. Both groups have first round rookies, but it seems like Richardson will be asked to do less than Milliner, which is again an edge for the interior pass rush. You never know what rookies are going to do. It is best to ask less and view contributions as a pleasant surprise. The idea of generating a pass rush from the inside instead of the edge is unconventional in today's NFL, but anything can work with top talent. Arizona had a pretty good defense last year leaning on interior players to get after the quarterback. It comes down to how the talent performs.
Do you agree with me? Is there another group I overlooked? Let us know, and may the power of Castrol Edge be with you until our next meeting.