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Are the Safeties Actually Effective Leading the Defense on the Field?

Probably the most prominent argument people use to defend the Jets using the Jim Leonhard-Eric Smith starting safety combo is their intelligence. We hear phrases like "coaches on the field" and "quarterbacks of the defense." It is impossible to truly measure the impact of such things. Does this make up for the deficiencies in coverage against athletic tight ends?

I have always been somewhat skeptical of this argument. How well do the Jets do these things relative to other things. There really is no game that comes to mind in the Rex Ryan era like the game Jonathan Vilma had in the Super Bowl matching audibles with Peyton Manning two years ago.

I think Sunday's game does a lot to shoot holes into the theory. The Jets had guys lined up in the wrong spots at least four times in that game and left receivers wide open off the line. This cannot happen in the biggest game of the year. The "coaches on the field" probably have to take some of the blame. Their job in the back of the defense is to make sure everybody is lined up correctly and either call a timeout or get somebody to the right place if a receiver is going uncovered. There was a ton of presnap confusion that went unfixed.

The bottom line is the guys in there to quarterback the defense did not have the intended impact in the biggest game of the year. Is this really worth having a guy like Smith who has allowed more yardage in coverage than any safety in the league in light of this?