New York Jets: The Emergence of Calvin Pryor


Even though they don’t hand out Lombardi trophies in July, every NFL off-season is a contest that produces winners and losers.

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This off-season the New York Jets clearly emerged as winners.

They upgraded their offense and defense significantly.  They even brought in a new coach and GM.  That being said, with all of the changes, which member of the Jets will step up on game day and be unleashed on the NFL?

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Calvin Pryor.

As soon as Todd Bowles was hired, one of the immediate adjustments he made in minicamp was to move Calvin Pryor from free safety to strong safety.  In this new system, Pryor will be the tone setter for the Jets defense as the 8th man in the box on running downs.  He will also emerge as the primary blitzer on passing downs.

Last season, to put it mildly, the Jets secondary was a weakness.

Dee Milliner started the season as the team’s number one corner and he clearly wasn’t ready for that role.  Often times, Pryor was put in situations to help against the pass down the field.  Bowles, who was a very good defensive back in his own right as a player, knows that in today’s NFL you can never have too many cover corners.

To that end, the Jets bolstered their secondary by adding 3 outstanding cornerbacks.

Revis Island is back where he belongs.  Cromartie, who will bring familiarity on multiple levels (played with Revis, played under Bowles in his system, played for Jets Nation), will be the second corner opposite Revis.  And let’s not leave out Buster Skrine who was one of the most underrated pickups of the off-season. Skrine can play outside and in the slot, but he will make his hay by clamping down on slot receivers all across the league.

In order for the Jets to get into blitz situations, the first thing they need to do is stop the run.

The Jets were 5th against the run in 2014. That should improve with the re-signing of David Harris, the drafting of Leonard Williams (the steal of the draft as some boards had him going as high as #2 overall), and the continued stellar play of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, Richardson’s four game suspension notwithstanding.

With these new corners in the fold, and the front seven holding up their end of the bargain, Bowles will be allowed to do what he does best….BLITZ!!

We’ve all seen the clip of Bill Cowher talking to Greg Lloyd on the sideline, “RUSH THE QUARTERBACK!!”  That is exactly what the Jets will be doing this season.

Under Bowles, the Arizona Cardinals were a very stingy and aggressive defense, with the emphasis on AGGRESSIVE.

In 2013, the Cardinals had the highest blitz percentage in the NFL.  They blitzed 49.2% of the time in passing situations (342 blitzes on 695 QB drop backs).  That year, they were also ranked 6th in total defense.  In 2014, they were second in the NFL in blitz percentage at 42.5% (288 blitzes on 678 QB drop backs).

Jun 17, 2014; Florham Park, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This is where Calvin Pryor comes in.  With the front seven stopping the run, and the best 3-man cornerback tandem in the NFL covering receivers down the field, look for Pryor to be “the tip of the spear” in Bowles’ extensive blitz packages…coming the off the edge unblocked, causing turnovers, and making quarterbacks throw early because of the pressure he applies.

The job of a great coach is to put his players in a position to succeed and ask them to do what they do best.  What does Pryor do best?!!  Apply pressure, intimidate, be physical and hit people.

The words scouts used when describing Pryor as a prospect coming out of college were “hard hitter”, “very instinctive”, “Quickness”, “Playmaker”, “forces fumbles”.  Those are all of the attributes that make up a good blitzer.  Bowles knows this.  You can be sure he is chomping at the bit, waiting to unleash Pryor like a secret weapon.

Calvin Pryor will have a breakout season this year.  The Jets have a lot of name players on defense.  But it will be Calvin Pryor who establishes himself as the difference maker for the Jets, giving offensive coordinators fits, while he’s making big plays all over the field.

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