Our next problem the Jets have is the starting safeties in coverage.
The Problem: The starting safeties are not very good in coverage. Eric Smith is strong against the run and a good situational player. He is also too slow to cover athletic tight ends. Jim Leonhard is a very instinctual player with a good nose for the ball. He makes a lot of great plays. His 5'8" 188 pound frame makes him a mismatch against big tight ends. If paired with a good cover guy, either would be fine. Together, they do not make a very good pair.
Who Is to Blame: Rex Ryan has to take most of the heat on this one. Even assuming Kerry Rhodes was too much of a locker room problem, there was no reason to start this pair together other than they are both a coaches' dream with their attitudes, brains, and work ethics. Never mind the Jets were great at the position in coverage at the end of last year with these guys out playing a Brodney Pool-Dwight Lowery duo. For some reason, Pool has ended up on the bench, and Lowery, a converted corner who made big plays against the pass fell completely out of favor and was traded to Jacksonville. It is tough to imagine Mike Tannenbaum making the move if his defensive minded coach did not sign off. The Jets would have had a good mix at the position had they rotated the four. Smith and Leonhard are good against the run. Lowery is good in coverage. Pool is a good all around player.
Viable Options to Fix the Problem: They could start the guy who looked like a complete safety and a great playmaker in Pool near the end of last season. He is better than either current starter.
Prognosis: Smith and Leonhard are coaches' favorites. The staff seems to want to talk itself into this duo because it likes both players. They are both smart guys who have their strong points. You want heady guys as the last line of defense. More important, though, is having guys athletic enough to make plays when needed and match up with athletic gamebreakers. Pool fits this bill better, but he is rotting on the bench despite being the best safety on the team. The staff has not come around yet. I cannot say when or if it will happen. Based on what I have seen, I am not optimistic.