Calvin Pryor has been an important defender for the Jets all season. He has made big plays to bail the defense out all season when other guys have been beaten. It is a bit surprising to see how important he was to the defense, but his absence could really be felt over the three games and change stretch where he was out.
Take this play from the opener against the Browns.
Calvin Pace misses a tackle on the edge that appears destined for a big gain, but Pryor moves in to clean it up.
Sunday we saw Pryor bail out a teammate on a big goal line play.
The Texans bring a receiver in motion across the formation hard before the snap hoping to get Antonio Cromartie caught in traffic and the receiver free. Pryor is lined up on the right side of the formation.
Cromartie is pretty much beaten before the ball is snapped. This should be an easy touchdown, but Pryor recognizes it and picks up the man. He is covered, and the play ends with an incompletion.
Cromartie is in the orange circle here.
Pryor's range also adds things schematically. Because he moves so quickly, the Jets can line him up in one place to disguise their looks before the snap knowing he can cover large portions of the field in a short stretch to get where he needs to be.
Let's take a look at the big third down pass breakup by Marcus Williams on DeAndre Hopkins.
Pryor is in the yellow circle. Williams and Hopkins are at the top of the picture. It looks like Pryor is going to be playing a deep centerfield here.
At the snap, though he breaks to his left. He is going to help Williams over the top. After piecing together a few angles, I was able to figure out that he was on his way before T.J. Yates' eyes go to Hopkins. He is helping Williams on this play.
This is important because Yates thinks he has a one on one between Hopkins and Williams. It is a really tough spot for Williams. If Williams gets too aggressive and drives on Hopkins, he is toast if the play is really a pump fake and a double move. It is Hopkins' third touchdown of the game. Yates knows this and throws to his star receiver. What he doesn't realize is that Pryor is on his way to help over the top. Knowing he has this help, Williams can be aggressive going for the ball, and he does a really nice job breaking up the pass.
If Darrelle Revis is out for any stretch, the Jets are going to have to get more creative with their coverages to help out Marcus Williams, Buster Skrine and Antonio Cromartie against the top wideouts the other teams have. Pryor can help.
How important has Pryor been to this defense? He are some interesting numbers for you. In the six games he has played from start to finish, the Jets have allowed 17 plays of at least 20 yards. In the three he did not play at all, they allowed 20. (Hat tip to Pro Football Reference Play Finder; he was in and out of the New England game making calculating that game a bit messy)
Obviously this is not entirely due to Pryor's presence, but I think it does show he is a very important part of this defense.