Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comHere’s a chance to look at some of the position battles that should play out over training camp in the coming weeks.
The Setup: Last year the Jets went into the season with questions about how strong they could be in coverage. Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett were better equipped to be “box” safeties; deployed around the line and their strengths left the Jets vulnerable in coverage. The Jets took the opportunity to upgrade the coverage of the group by bringing in Ed Reed mid-season and while it seemed to work in December, the November adjustment period was rough. This year, the Jets will deploy their rookie first round pick, Calvin Pryor, deep in coverage but who will start alongside him?
The Main Contenders: Antonio Allen, Dawan Landry
The Darkhorses: Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush, Rontez Miles
The Analysis: Rex Ryan has always preferred to have highly versatile players up the middle of his defense. While in a perfect world, Calvin Pryor would be deployed near the line, but he is more than athletic and experienced to drop into deeper coverages until they sort out that second versatile player. Dawan Landry is the veteran leader of the secondary and his knowledge of the Jets defense dating back to Baltimore is invaluable, but Landry’s coverage skills were never his strong suit and the Jets played Landry with the backups this spring so that young players like Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett could see more reps with the starters and sub-package players.
The Projection: Allen seems to have the inside track for three reasons. (1) Allen provides more speed, athleticism & versatility in both coverage and run-support than any other safety outside of Pryor, (2) Allen won one of the starting jobs last year prior to Ed Reed’s arrival and (3) in the spring the Jets were already trying out the Pryor-Allen tandem heavily. Need more? Allen took roughly half as many snaps as Landry did over the 2013, yet produced 42 tackles to Landry’s 62 and made the same amount of sacks (one apiece) and interceptions (one apiece) as the veteran.
If Pryor pulls the heavier coverage role, Allen would be a fine complement in the run-heavy role, but can drop in coverage when required. Jarrett was a reclamation project from the Eagles that seems to be working out for the Jets as a depth option and Rontez Miles makes most sense as a potential core special teamer this year.