Projected Depth: Who will be the Jets safeties in 2014?

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

With free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and the 2014 New York Jets having begun their organized team activities (OTAs), it’s time to being discussing what the final depth chart could look like.

First up, the Jets safeties:

Calvin PryorStarters: Calvin Pryor (Rookie – 1st round), Antonio Allen (3rd season – 7th round 2012)

Depth: (3) Dawan Landry , (4) Jaiquawn Jarrett, (5) Josh Bush, (6) Rontez Miles, (7) Brandon Hardin

Historically, the Jets have kept as many as five players on their roster at the safety position, but also as few as three at the outset of seasons like they did in 2012 when Antonio Allen started the year on the practice squad because they had such a veteran group at safety and cornerback.  This year, I would expect a rather normal four players to make the roster at the safety spot with a player held in reserve on practice squad.

It’s no secret that Rex Ryan has put an emphasis on the cornerback position during his tenure with the New York Jets.  Has that changed?  Maybe, but the trend seems to be modifying to all defensive backs.  The Jets might feel good about second year corner Dee Milliner, but there was a lot of emphasis on the Jets not bringing in a top free agent cornerback to play opposite Milliner like Alterraun Verner, Vontae Davis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  While many expected the Jets to draft a receiver in the first round, the team addressed the concerns in the secondary by drafting Calvin Pryor 18th overall.

Why Pryor?  With the defensive front under control for the foreseeable future, and the Jets feeling like they have tolerable depth at the cornerback spot, the idea of the Big Nickel — and specifically flexible safeties — has to be considered.

Last year, Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports spoke to a number of coaches about the proliferation of the Big Nickel package around the NFL was a way to fight two tight end sets.  Coaches spoke of needing flexible safeties who can play man if required to prevent tipping off the coverage scheme to the opposing quarterback.

I asked a number of defensive coaches about Big Nickel, when an extra safety is brought in to the game for a front seven player. The first thing I always hear is, “You gotta have the right kind of hybrid safety to do it right.” The Big Nickel safety has to be able to play as a linebacker when the offense condenses the set, and of course, he has to match up on a flexed tight end when they spread out the formation.

As one coach said. “The Big Nickel is a hybrid defensive package that changes as the offense changes. The problem with not having a Big Nickel package is it can reduce the base defense to zone coverage calls, and the quarterback knows right away that there are a limited number of ways a team can play an offense like New England or San Francisco.”

Calvin Pryor might be better suited near the line, but can play up and back if required and will fit the Jets need for flexible, physical safeties perfectly.  Idzik related after the fact, the draft room “erupted” when the Ravens let him slide to them at the 18th pick.  One can safely assume that Pryor is going to be the leader in the safety group for years to come and the team wants to get as much out of the talented player as they can as soon as possible.  To that end, Pryor will also likely be the teams signal caller of the secondary getting players positioned properly in the pre-snap alignments much as David Harris does with the defensive front.

Paired with Calvin Pryor will be third-year Jet Antonio Allen.  Allen played well in his first season as a starter, but saw his time marginalized with the addition of Ed Reed to the team.  Allen seems to be best deployed at or near the line of scrimmage and generally on the strong side of the formation.   In college, Alan saw time as an additional linebacker/safety hybrid in the “Spur” in the South Carolina Gamecock defense; a position comparable to Rex Ryan’s “46″ in his scheme.  Allen is still young and has athleticism and speed to run in coverage, so should the Jets deploy a big nickel package he might be the one who slides into more of a coverage role.

As far as the third part of a Big Nickel package?  Rex Ryan has spoken about how he fully expects that 2013 starter Dawan Landry, who will now work in more of a reserve role, will still be a major component of the Jets defense.  Landry saw more than 1,100 defensive snaps in 2013, more than any other Jet player at safety combined.  Landry could provide the team excellent depth, a coach’s eyes from the sidelines (and field).

Behind Landry, the team has Jaiquawn Jarrett who saw more snaps than Josh Bush.  Jarrett seems best suited as a run-stopping safety, while Bush might be better employed in coverage.  The problem for Bush is that with good depth at cornerback already, it might be hard for him to see nickel / dime defense work with as many other competent coverage players on the team.

After Bush come Rontez Miles and Brandon Hardin.  Miles showed promise last summer during training camp and is a big hitting safety, but both he and Hardin will need to demonstrate their worth as special teamers first to make this team’s September roster.




81 comments
Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

The CB's need all the help they can get from our safeties.  Playing close to the line?  I hope it's to bump the receiver.

jetsfan14
jetsfan14

If he lives up to the hype, Pryor was a great pick in the first round. The Jets have not had a difference-maker at safety in ages. I got tired of seeing players like Troy Polamalu or the Ed Reed of old just taking over a game with their presence--that was an element our defense has lacked for a long, long time. I'm looking forward to seeing if he lives up to Rex Ryan's effusive praise.

nesboogie
nesboogie

Sign Brandon Flowers if he gets cut? Lol

Bent
Bent moderator

@RavensInsider Ed Reed said he's "still preparing to play." Doesn't plan to go to training camp though. "I know I can still play" #nyj


Hmmm...

dgdg
dgdg

Miles is going to make the time as a special teams player.

Simon Gribben
Simon Gribben

 Miles college tape showed an excellent open field tackler on special teams; looks like Pryor when he arrives, not an inch more is gained.

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

I feel comfortable with out secondary this season, alot of that has to do with the D line, hopefully we can plug in some of the younger guys at linebacker positions, hopefully barnes can stay healthy, with linebackers making key contributions this front seven will be the best in football, all the secondary has to do is not get beat right from the line of scrimage, if they can hold their man for a few seconds we'll be o.k. Allen and Pryor are going to be a great tandem for years to come, Milliner will continue to improve and be an elite corner, hopefully we can bring in Mcdougal slowly and some one can step in as #2 to hold the fort till then.  My only concern right now is the offensive line.  Yesterday someone brought up Incognito, with people saying how terrible that would be, I wouldn't be opposed to signing him for a year, see how he does on the field, in the locker room and off the field, based on that I would make a decision if I wanted to offer him a long term contract.

Bent
Bent moderator

@jake100 Can't see how that would be an issue this time around.  Milliner at 9 perhaps had a case that he should get the offset clauses but Richardson at 13 signed without too much of an issue and Pryor is five picks later.  Nobody - other than some QBs or players whose team always gives offsets to their first rounders - gets offsets that late in the first round.


I don't like the fact the players argue for offsets anyway.  It's like they're saying "but what if I turn out to be not very good and you cut me and nobody else wants to sign me?"  Well, in that case you didn't deserve to have that money anyway.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples Bush has barely played over the past few years and has never started.  The best he can hope for is a subpackage role.


I think none of the starting spots are locked down and you can expect Allen, Pryor and Landry to get plenty of reps.


Getting Reed would change everything, but I don't know that this is on the cards.

marcus81
marcus81

@Hanknaples  Reed is a FA, hope he doesn't go to the Patsies, all he has to do is make a few big plays for them in the play offs

jdb4
jdb4

@nesboogie 

If he struggles in Bob Sutton's scheme... why would he succeed in Rex's?

jetlife
jetlife

@nesboogie IIRC, the knock on Flowers is he struggles in man-to-man.  Likely not a good fit in Rex's defense.

tsjc68
tsjc68

@Bent


His beard is still in gameshape.  It's been in gameshape since the Bush administration, for the record.

tsjc68
tsjc68

@dgdg Possible; he can impress there.  Physical and instinctive.  Loved him from last year's UDFA haul.  He'll have to jump over a lot of good guys, though, and hope that Ed Reed doesn't swoop in at Week 2 and take his spot.


I wouldn't bet the farm on him.  He's one of about two dozen guys who could easily make the roster and easily not.

D
D

@Pablo Bruno I know what you mean.  Brick, Mangold, and Giac, are all proven players  Colon was very stable last year for us.

Id like to see what a second year brings to Winters.  A lot of people were not happy with Matt Slauson and he turned out to be a steal for Chicago.  He should get every chance in the world to earn his starting position back this year.


We also need to see how the draft picks last year are coming along (campbell, aboushi, etc)

levi
levi

@Pablo Bruno Judging by the high character guys Idzik is drafting and keeping with the mantra of team players and leaders I would say there is zero chance he signs Incognito.

Bent
Bent moderator

@jake100 @Hanknaples


Reed played well last season and made the team better.  After the first couple of games he didn't put a foot wrong.  Also, he was coming of hip surgery so it's possible he will be in better physical shape this year despite being older.

Bent
Bent moderator

@tsjc68 @Bent Which Bush administration?


"Bush adminstration" actually sounds like what he might call it if he went to the barbers to get the beard trimmed. 


tsjc68
tsjc68

@Bent @tsjc68 Ed Reed was 15 when the first Bush administration ended, so he probably wasn't rocking a gnarly, spectacular homeless man-pelt on his chin back then.


If anyone was able to do it, though, it's 15 year old Ed Reed.


Ed Reed wasn't born ready... because he was already ready in-utero.

Brendan
Brendan

@jake100 Experience alone doesn't make a player better. Gholston gained experience playing as a run specialist DL on the interior, that didn't make him better. 


Reed would essentially be a player-coach and is better than every safety currently on the roster, save maybe Pryor if he doesn't have rookie struggles, which he will because pretty much all rookies do. 

tsjc68
tsjc68

@Bent @tsjc68 @Pablo Bruno Some guys are talented and effective enough to be worth the headaches that they bring.


And then there's Richie Incognito.

Brendan
Brendan

@jake100  Your comment ignores one very simple premise: Reed, even in decline, is better than what the Jets have. 

tsjc68
tsjc68

@Bent @juunit @tsjc68 @Pablo Bruno


Brad Baxter >>>>>Baxter the Dog from Anchorman >>>> Ted Baxter from WJM >>>>>>>>> Colin Baxter >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Richie Incognito

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

@tsjc68 @Pablo Bruno @Bent @juunit Wow that was pretty good tsjc68, how you find it so quick.  wow his stats on that game are terrible, but I think he was better then that, I think those old games had every jet player with subpar stats.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Pablo Bruno @tsjc68 @Bent @juunit He was really good and a throwback because he could actually carry the ball too - 35 career touchdowns and he even had a 100-yard game.


I wonder where FRED Baxter (ex-Jets tight end and current backup nose tackle with awesome initials TJ Barnes' cousin) fits on 68's scale?

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

@tsjc68 @Pablo Bruno @Bent @juunit You see all jets players stats sucked in tecmo, O'brien was one of the best pure passers of his time, up there with Marino, but since he's a jet got no love.