New York Jets
Pillar need: safety
You look at New York's defense right now and alarms sound when your eye spots the holes at outside linebacker. Aside from journeyman backup Antwan Barnes, not a single Jet has meaningful NFL experience at this position. No coach, including Rex Ryan, can run a 3-4 scheme with lousy outside linebackers.
Perhaps more troublesome, though, is New York's situation at safety. Right now, penciled in to start are last year's sixth-round pick, Josh Bush, and seventh-rounder Antonio Allen. Needless to say, the depth behind these unknowns is iffy.
There's a general -- and not erroneous -- belief that outside linebackers, particularly in a 3-4, are more important than safeties. After all, linebackers are always near the ball, while safeties are usually 20 yards back in center field. But in Ryan's scheme, which is defined by its third-down pressure packages, things are a little different. The mission with the pressure packages is to send an unexpected combination of rushers at the quarterback as quickly as possible. Often this means blitzing a safety and having a slower linebacker drop into coverage. The focus is not necessarily on getting sacks, but on making the quarterback play fast.
Fast quarterbacking leads to turnovers and incompletions. Indeed, in 2009, when the Jets reached the AFC Championship Game, their defense ranked tied for 18th in total sacks but first in opponent completion percentage. When they repeated the feat the next year, the defense ranked tied for eighth in total sacks and first again in opponent completion percentage.
Ryan's sub packages often feature three safeties, all of whom need to be fast and versatile enough to blitz, play man coverage and tackle in space or in traffic. As it stands, the Jets have no safeties who have proved themselves in this fashion. This isn't to say Ryan and new GM John Idzik will take a safety in the first or second round. They know it's much easier to find value at that position in the middle rounds, while value at edge-rusher is usually found mostly in the early rounds. But if they do reach for a safety, it would make perfect sense. The paucity of talent on their roster at this key spot has to be troubling to them.
Edited by Coach Tuesday, 05 April 2013 - 07:59 AM.