There’s no question that Rex Ryan is one of the best defensive coaches in the league, and teamed with general manager John Idzik the Jets have amassed an impressive collection of defensive talent. The defense’s strength is clearly in their front seven. Ryan’s aggressive scheme allows the linemen and linebackers to pressure the opposing team and use multiple fronts to create confusion and exploit mismatches. First round draft pick Sheldon Richardson exploded onto the scene in his first season in the NFL. The defensive end helped solidify one of the leagues best lines alongside Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison. Richardson was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year for his efforts. Wilkerson, another first round pick by the Jets, had an even bigger break-out season. Offensive linemen struggled mightily to stop Wilkerson from disrupting the backfield. He led the team with 10.5 sacks and added an interception to his already full stat sheet. Inside linebacker David Harris, the team’s defensive leader, led the team in tackles for the fourth time in the last five years. In that lone season, Harris was second by just one tackle. Fellow veteran Calvin Pace, who had ten sacks in 2013, and Quinton Coples, another emerging young talent that was drafted by the Jets in the first round, will flank Harris to round out a dominant front seven. The defense’s biggest area of concern is in the secondary. Over the last two seasons, the Jets have lost No. 1 cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, who is now with the rival New England Patriots, and Antonio Cromartie. The team will have to rely on second-year CB Dee Milliner, who struggled in his rookie season and was pulled from several games because of his poor performance. The Jets will attempt to strengthen the unit with the help of two draft picks: safety Calvin Pryor and CB Deter McDougle. CBs Kyle Wilson, another Jets first round pick, and Dimitri Patterson will add some depth to the relatively inexperienced group. Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. At 6-3 and 300 pounds, Richardson has the size to stop the run but he still maintains the athleticism to rush the passer. And with an impressive roster SCOREBOARD D’Brickashaw Ferguson AL PEREIRA/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH - - - CC CC REGULAR SEASON W-L 8-8 6-10 8-8 11-5 9-7 POINTS PER GAME 18.1 17.6 23.6 22.9 21.8 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 24.2 23.4 22.7 19.0 14.8 YARDS PER GAME 318.1 299.1 311.8 351.0 321.0 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 334.9 323.4 312.1 291.5 252.3 TURNOVERS 29 37 34 21 30 TAKEAWAYS 15 23 31 30 31 Jets Defense Defensive Player to Watch Richardson had a breakout year that earned him NFL’s Key Additions: WR Eric Decker, Breno Giacomini, RB Chris Johnson, QB Michael Vick Key Subtractions: CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes, QB Mark Sanchez Rookies: S Calvin Pryor, TE Jace Amaro, CB Dexter McDougle of players around him, Richardson is set up to have another spectacular season. In an effort to take the next step, Richardson has promised to be more disruptive on the field this season and cause more turnovers. With all of the promise that the defense showed in 2013, they forced just 19 turnovers. Rex Ryan is sure to put more emphasis on being physical, and Richardson will be key to that improvement. Jets Special Teams The Jets have long been known for their focus on special teams, even when some coaches took their sideline roles a bit too seriously. This year should be no different as the team locked up place kicker Nick Folk and hope that free agent acquisition Jacoby Ford can contribute in the return game. Folk had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013 when he connected on 92 percent of his field goals and was top five in the NFL in field goals made. He was also 3 for 3 on kicks over 50 yards. Punter Ryan Quigley got plenty of practice in his first season as a starter. He punted 72 times last year with 21 of them being downed inside the 20-yard line. The Jets hope to see great improvement form the young punter. Prediction For all of their offensive struggles, the New York Jets were just one game shy of a playoff berth. Now Geno Smith has a year of NFL experience and a full training camp under his belt. But the truth is that the Jets will only go as far as their defense takes them, and that gives them a good shot at competing for an AFC Wild Card berth.
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