Power Rankings: Top Post-Draft Defenses (11-15)

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Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert (35) runs as New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) and New York Jets free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (37) defend in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets 8-8
Last Season’s Rankings: #11 Overall Defense (334.9 total yards per game allowed) #22 Passing Defense (246.7 passing yards per game allowed) #3 Rushing Defense (88.3 rushing yards per game allowed)

Last Season
Last season for NFL and Jets’ fans was an absolute nightmare both offensively and (at times) defensively for the Jets. At 8-8, the Jets were lucky to break even, seeing as that their offense was among worst in the league. However, their defense did have some bright spots in that their run defense was outstanding as usual, giving up only 88.3 rushing yards to opposing backs in 2013. Their passing defense was not as lucky, giving up 246.7 yards per game. The reason for this drop off can most likely be explained by the lack of corner and safety play last season. Ed Reed was getting much too old to be playing center fielder for the Jets. Besides Dee Milliner, the Jets did not have any corner nor safety amass double digit passes defended. This next season features new corners and a safety that will make sure the Jets don’t repeat 2013.

Run Defense
For the Jets, their run defense was and has been perhaps the best part of their defense. In 2013, the Jets’ rush defense ranked among tops in the league, giving up just 88.3 yards (ranked third), nine touchdowns (ranked sixth) and only 3.4 yards per carry (ranked first). Their defensive line and line backing corps in 2013 were savage and relentless. The defensive line featured “sons” DE Muhammed Wilkerson (63 tackles, 10.5 sacks and six tackles for loss), DT Damon Harrison (66 tackles, one sack and seven tackles for loss) and DE Sheldon Wilkerson (78 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss), while the line backing corps consisted of Quinton Coples (38 tackles, 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss), DeMario Davis (107 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss), David Harris (124 tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for loss) and the old pro Calvin Pace (53 tackles, 10 sacks and three tackles for loss). It is now wonder that the Jets were ranked among tops in the league in stopping the run.

This off-season, the Jets also added some nice rookie talent to the mix to help their already stout run defense. In the draft, the Jets added ILB Jeremiah George from Iowa State University, OLB Trevor Reilly from the University of Utah and DE Ik Enemkpali out of Louisiana Tech University. For the Jets, their front 7 is one of the best in the business. With the addtions of George, Reilly and Enemkpali, the Jets get some more pass-rushing and run-stopping power. George at ISU was an absolute behemoth, adding a monstrous 133 total tackles during his senior season, along with 3 forced fumbles, 12 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. With George helping out in the middle, the Jets will most definitely have one of the best rushing defenses in the league. Reilly was great as well, recording 100 tackles, 9 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss during his senior season. As for Ik Enemkpali, at LA Tech, he was more of a pass rusher than a run stopper. During his senior season he was able to sack opposing QBs 5.5 times as well as record 11 tackles for loss. With this load of defensive talent, the Jets should have no problem with stopping the run, nor getting to the QB. Where these draft picks will land remains to be seen. For the most part though, the Jets made some great acquisitions and are looking to repeat their 2013 performance with yet another solid showing.

Pass Defense
Offense aside, I believe that had the Jets’ pass defense been better last season, the Jets would’ve been in the playoffs. Now while their run defense was amazing, their pass defense could have been better. Don’t get me wrong though, the Jets pass defense did have some good play from Antonio Cromartie (nine passes defended) and Dee Milliner (56 tackles and 17 passes defended). As well, Dawan Landry was great in terms of stopping ball carriers (100 tackles and seven passes defended). In the grand scheme of things though, the Jets defense was average, not good, nor bad. In 2013, the Jets ranked 22nd in the league in interceptions (13), 26th in passes defended (74) and 19th in passing touchdowns allowed (26). In terms of 2014 though, the Jets look very bright in that Landry and Milliner will be returning to the squad. However, in free agency and the NFL draft is where the Jets made the biggest splashes. For instance, the Jets were able to pick up former Dolphins’ CB Dimitri Patterson who was able to intercept four and defend six passes in just six games in 2013. With Dimitri playing opposite of Milliner, look for the Jets to have solid play on the outside. As for the rookies, the Jets made a wise decision in drafting the versatile and menacing Calvin Pryor out of Louisville.

If there is anything you need to know right off the bat is that University of Louisville junior free safety Calvin Pryor is a hard hitter. At 6’2″, 208 pounds, Pryor has the physicality and ability of a typical NFL free safety. As a freshman out of Port St. Joe, Florida, Pryor played in all of Louisville’s 13 games and record two interceptions, a sack and 43 total tackles, 3.0 of them for loss. As with many college athletes, Pryor’s sophomore  season was one of his most productive as he was able to force four fumbles, record 99 total tackles and break up five passes along with two interceptions. In his final season at UL, Pryor was still dominant for a free safety of his caliber. This year, Pryor was able to register 75 total tackles (54 solo tackles), 5.5 tackles for loss (career-high) and three interceptions as the Cardinals went 12-1 and went on to win the Russel Athletic Bowl over the University of Miami 36-9 with help from Pryor’s six tackles.

Considering that Pryor is only just a free safety, it is amazing to see that he was able to be such a dominating presence for the Cardinals on defense especially with his tackling capabilities. Typically free safeties are known for their ball-hawking skills, however Pryor is more of an after-the-catch and run disruption than anything. His 11.0 tackles for loss during his career still continues to impress me even more than his 217 total tackles over three seasons. As evidenced through his play and according to top NFL scouts, Pryor’s top notch tackling ability and productive seasons at Louisville are a result from supreme athleticism. Unlike any other free safety in this draft, Pryor has capacity to find running backs out in the open and then use his 4.57 40-yard speed to then finish off his opponents. Some may consider Pryor almost too physical, however in the grand scheme of the NFL there can be nothing “too physical.” As a freshman out of Port St. Joe, Florida, Pryor played in all of Louisville’s 13 games and record two interceptions, a sack and 43 total tackles, 3.0 of them for loss. As with many college athletes, Pryor’s sophomore  season was one of his most productive as he was able to force four fumbles, record 99 total tackles and break up five passes along with two interceptions. In his final season at UL, Pryor was still dominant for a free safety of his caliber. This year, Pryor was able to register 75 total tackles (54 solo tackles), 5.5 tackles for loss (career-high) and three interceptions as the Cardinals went 12-1 and went on to win the Russel Athletic Bowl over the University of Miami 36-9 with help from Pryor’s six tackles. Unlike any other free safeties in this draft, Pryor has capacity to find running backs out in the open and then use his 4.57 40-yard speed to then finish off his opponents. Some may consider Pryor almost too physical, however in the grand scheme of the NFL there can be nothing “too physical.” With the addition of Pryor to the Jets, I think they upgrade their 22nd-ranked passing game, while also helping out their running game too. Pryor is known for his big hits and can show his physical presence in both zone coverage and designed blitzes. I personally expect him to see playing time early on in the season, granted he gets a decent showing during training camp and the pre-season. Pryor will fit in well because of his seemingly reckless abandon when pursuing ball carriers in the open field. Pryor’s explosive speed will help out these Jets in their running game as well as their passing game by adding another strong element to this defense that many offensive coordinators and running backs will be sure to keep their eyes out for. There may be some running backs in the NFL that are considered hard-hitting, however in the grand scheme of things, nobody in this draft can compare to the overall play of Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.

As for the other draft picks, the Jets were able to select CB Dex McDougle from the University of Maryland and CB Brandon Dixon out of Northwestern Missouri State University. Both of these corners make up for the absence of CB Antonio Cromartie, who left last season to go and join the Arizona Cardinals. At Maryland, McDougle played an almost shut-down style of corner back play. As well, even though Dixon is a small school prospect, he still has mad ball skills. This combination should be the answer to Cromartie and will most definitely help out the Jets’ pass defense next season.

In The End
With the newest additions in Pryor and Patterson, the Jets finally have the secondary they’ve always dreamed of. We know that their front seven is going to destroy opposing run games, the key though is their new and improved secondary. As long as Pryor can develop his pass coverage skills, I believe that the Jets have a legitimate chance at being a top 10 defense next season, not just top 11.

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