Feature Image: AP
The New York Jets spent two of their first three selections in the NFL Draft to bolster a weak, arthritic secondary with the additions of Calvin Pryor (1st Round, 18th overall) and Dexter McDougle (3rd Round, 80th overall), this past weekend.
Let’s investigate the rationale for the allocation of their number one resource.
Below is a table illustrating the defensive rankings — in passing yards allowed and points allowed — for the NFL’s best defense in 2009, the New York Jets, and today’s best, the Seattle Seahawks.
The 2009 New York Jets Secondary in Review
All-Pro and Pro Bowl corner, Darrell Revis, played LCB, Lito Sheppard played RCB, and Dwight Lowery manned the slot. The three were anchored by great safety support from Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes. Jim Leonhard, who came over with Rex from Baltimore, was undersized but made up for it with high football IQ and ultra-sound fundamentals.
Then there’s Kerry. An All-Pro in 2006, and arguabley a top safety in the league thoughout his career, Kerry made the players around him better.
Three time All-Pro, Adrian Wilson —Rhodes teammate in Arizona — sung high praise for Kerry when he learned of his Pro Bowl selection in 2010, telling reporters on a conference call, “Kerry deserved it more than I do.”
The 2013 Seattle Seahawks Secondary in Review
The outspoken, LCB Richard Sherman, was finally paid his respect — to his standard — in receiving over $40 mil guaranteed from Seattle, for four years of his services.
On his opposite side, at RCB, stood Brandon Browner (who has since been signed by the Patriots.) The pair were supported by, not one, but two Pro Bowl safeties, in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Both Earl and Richard have received All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
Fact: the 2009 New York Jets were the best defense in the NFL.
Fact: the 2013 Seattle Seahawks were the best defense in the NFL.
Fact: the Seattle Seahawks progressed as a defense from 2009 to 2013.
Fact: the Jets did not.
What do these numbers suggest about the performance of the Jets secondary?
In 2009, the Jets held the number one ranking in passing yards allowed, seeing some continuity in this category throughout the Ryan era. But don’t be distracted by Rex’s knack to schematically hinder opposing offenses’ ability to move the ball. Points allowed is what truly embodies the efficiency of a defense.
Let’s look again. The 2009 Jets held opposing offenses to 153.7 passing yards per game and a total of 236 points (14.8/gm). By comparison, the 2013 Seahawks kept offenses to an impressive 172 passing yards per game and a total of 231 points (14.4/gm). Both defenses we’re elite in their respective years.
Now, focus your attention to the all-important points allowed category.
From 2009 to the 2010, Gang Green fell from 1st (14.8 pts/g) to 6th (19 pts/g), giving up 68 more points to opposing teams. That’s a 29% increase in scoring for the opposition. Again, Rex’s scheme saw success, but once the red zone was gained, personnel weaknesses were exploited.
I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t make sense, considering Darrell Revis played for the Jets in the 2010 season, too. Antonio Cromartie was even acquired in a trade with San Diego.
The light bulb should go on right about…now!
The Jets traded FS Kerry Rhodes to the Arizona Cardinals for a 4th and 7th round pick, opening up a gaping hole in the backend of the defense the Jets had yet to fill. Rhodes was replaced by the hard-hitting Brodney Pool, who was an upgrade over backup Eric Smith. Whether or not the Jets want to admit it, Kerry’s dismissal was apparent. Or as Michael Smith of ESPN would say, “The numbers never lie.”
The Jets fell from 6th in points allowed (19 pts/g) to 20th (22.7 pts/g), with backup Eric Smith seeing a bulk of the play time due, in part, to a deteriorating Brodney Pool. Following the trend from the year prior, the Jets saw another painful drop-off, with a 20% increase in their opponents’ scoring.
So what does this all mean?
For starters, we can acknowledge safeties are integral pieces to a defense; Rex is included. We can further conclude that a cornerback’s success, and secondary as a whole, depends on the performances of the safeties.
The 2009 Jets shutdown passing games. Over the course of the 16-game season, they relinquished only eight touchdowns through the air. That’s for the entire season! By comparison, Seattle’s defense allowed 16 passing touchdowns in 2013. The next year, the Jets gave up 24 passing touchdowns, falling from first in this category to 19th.
For a few years now, Rex has been doing patchwork at the safety position. Many analysts and fans seem to be under the impression Rex does this by choice. Well I’m here to tell you, you’re lost. If Rex had even a half court shot at a Pro Bowl safety, he’d take it!
Ryan’s revolving door in centerfield has no sure ‘safety’ feature, but we did invest our greatest asset to address the issue. As we all know, there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft, but I’ll leave you with this… when in Seattle, John Idzik participated in the drafting a first round safety, by the name of Earl Thomas. The 14th overall selection of the 2010 NFL Draft was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro the last three seasons.
And for all of the conspiracy theorists, Kerry Rhodes played college ball at none other than: Louisville.