The defense is going to keep playing the same way they did in the first half of the year they just look to tighten up a few things and eliminate communications breakdowns. The key has been the amazing play of the front seven. Muhammad Wilkerson has 8 sacks and has been unblockable, Sheldon Richardson has been dominating in stopping the run and has 2 1/2 sacks, Damon Harrison has statistically been the best run stuffer in the league, David Harris has been rejuvenated he has been all over the field blowing up screens, stopping the run, blitzing and covering better than he has in a couple of years, Demario Davis has added the extra element of speed to the lineup he hits hard and has great range as well, and quietly Calvin Pace has five sacks and two forced fumbles.
The problem has been the secondary which has three new starters including both safeties. They have been picked apart by quarterbacks who get the ball out quickly and nullify the pass rush. They have also been beaten deep repeatedly. Antonio Cromartie has had multiple injuries including a hip injury that has made him much less of a player than what we saw last year. He is getting beaten on double moves and deep. Dee Milliner has been injured and has looked lost at times. He had to be pulled from the first Patriots game as well as the Cincinnati game because he was getting beaten on every play. Kyle Wilson has been up and down playing like Kyle Wilson. Darrin Walls has been pretty good when called upon. Dawan Landry takes bad angles to the ball and has missed some tackles but he has also made some plays including tipping a ball to Demario Davis for an interception. Antonio Allen has been a surprise as he has been able to have a level of success covering tight ends making some big plays one on one against Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
The key to the rest of the season is the play of Dee Milliner, Quinton Coples and Antonio Cromartie. Rex Ryan defended Milliner after the Cincinnati benching saying that he believed in him and said that Milliner would finish the year as the best rookie corner in the league. Milliner responded by showing some of that promise against New Orleans flying around to the ball and showing better technique especially when he broke on a pass to Pierre Thomas and almost intercepted it. Having a super athletic corner such as Milliner start paying dividends in the second half would help everyone on defense. The longer he can stay with a receiver the more time the pass rush has to get the quarterback, the more competent he is the less safety help he will need and that safety can help elsewhere or even blitz, and his ball skills can create turnovers which have been few and far between so far. The same goes for Cromartie. If he is really healthy after the bye and returns to form and can lock down the opponent’s top receiver he can help fix that leaky secondary. Another interesting usage of Cromartie was at safety vs New Orleans. Just a few snaps at safety saw him in position to grab two additional interceptions to add on to the one he had. Quinton Coples’ fractured ankle near the end of the preseason derailed his momentum of trying to build on a 5 1/2 sack rookie year. When Coples returned he was nowhere to be found he pretty much disappeared. Until this week when he added three quarterback hits, some other pressure and a tackle for loss on a 4th and 1 that caused a turnover on downs in the 4th quarter. Coples is a dynamic pass rusher who can rush from end, from tackle and even from standing up. He demands a double team when he is playing well and with Wilkerson and Richardson also commanding double teams somebody is going to get a one on one mismatch and hit the quarterback. This is how a very good defense can become a dominant one.
If the young players continue to develop and improve throughout the rest of the year and major injuries are avoided the Jets are going to be a very dangerous team as the year progresses. Once they learn consistency the sky is the limit.