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Improving communication on defense is key

Jul 28, 2016; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) looks on during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 28, 2016; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) looks on during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Jets had one of the top defenses in the NFL last season, but they could’ve been better. This time around, improved communication on defense is key for success in 2016.

While in many regards the New York Jets had a successful season last year, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Sure, missing the NFL Playoffs last season is at the top of that list and one of the reasons that happened was due to the apparent lack of defensive communication.

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Too often last season we saw a breakdown in defensive communication. Some of that can be attributed to the talent discrepancy of some of the players, but a lot of that was simple breakdowns in basic communication.

Let’s talk about a few examples from the 2015 season, the glaring game is the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets’ Week 3 match-up from last season. In that game, the Eagles schooled the Jets in the running back vs. linebacker match-ups.

Head coach Todd Bowles prides himself on his defense and for good reason, he’s a defensive genius. He utilizes a variety of defensive coverages and as mentioned earlier, the talent or coverage inabilities of David Harris and Demario Davis are well-documented.

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But better communication by the Davis/Harris combination would have helped minimize the damage.

For example, while the Eagles were padding their lead in the first half, a simple out-and-up from running back Ryan Mathews would’ve resulted in a 24 point lead, if he had held onto the football.

Davis should’ve recognized that he could only cover the flat and if Mathews turned up the field he was out of luck.

If he alerted the safety on the play (Calvin Pryor), the crisis would’ve been averted.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are several other examples from last season like Marcus Gilchrist abandoning his man (Rob Gronkowski) in the first New England Patriots-Jets game that resulted in the wide open game-winning touchdown for the Patriots.

This is a theme for Bowles in training camp and something the Jets are looking to improve on heading into the season. Here is what Bowles had to say about overall communication on defense, courtesy of the Media Relations Department of the Jets:

On what the areas of improvement are for the defense…

Communication is always a big thing we try to improve on every year. Guys getting to know each other, getting cut out of the run gap, we’ve got to do better there. We could do better in combination coverages. We need to get better in blitzing as far as understanding what we are trying to do and playing next to the guy because we’ve got a couple of new guys over there. So we’re trying to get that accomplished.

What will help this defense is having another year under their belt as a unit. A bittersweet pill to swallow will be the fact that the Jets are going to be adding five new starters on defense.

Why it’s bittersweet is because the Jets should be better with the new starters including the youth movement. The Jets could have as many as two rookies starting on defense, with a few second-year starters also stepping in.

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The goal is for the defensive veterans on the team to better translate that communication to the younger players to make sure they’re in the correct position. Better communication in 2016 could be the difference in one win or one loss since as everyone remembers, one more win last season could’ve gotten this team into the NFL Playoffs.

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