As the New York Jets continue on in training camp and preseason football, their current situation at safety is a good one.
The New York Jets have a group of safeties who don’t get the credit they deserve. The position may not be deep, but the talent is there and we saw it throughout 2015. New faces came in, a new coach came in and multiple guys got injured. Yet the unit still produced without a problem. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for 2016 and see if the same can occur.
It’s safe to say that Calvin Pryor makes up a good portion of the talent in Gang Green’s group of safeties. The ‘Louisville Slugger’ had 69 tackles last year to go along with a forced fumble and two interceptions. His second interception came in Week 15 and saved a touchdown that could’ve put the Jets in a hole against the awful Dallas Cowboys.
Head coach Todd Bowles has simply turned Pryor into a completely different player. Under Rex Ryan, he was primarily a hitter who played up in the box and actually blitzed often. He now makes plays on the ball and hangs back in the secondary to wrap up receivers. On numerous occasions, Ryan’s defenses were burned on long touchdowns because the safeties weren’t deep. Bowles keeps Pryor back and we’re already noticing a difference in his production and the defense’s as a whole.
Marcus Gilchrist was an under the radar signing last offseason and his 2015 campaign wasn’t too shabby. The former San Diego Charger had 82 tackles and three interceptions in his first season in the ‘Big Apple.’ Many criticized general manager Mike Maccagnan for giving Gilchrist the four-year, $22M deal he’s earning, although he seems to be playing up to that price tag to an extent.
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The one thing he needs to work on this upcoming season would have to be staying in the correct place.
A handful of times we saw Gilchrist out of position and giving up big plays in his area.
Whether he’s whiffing on a tackle or getting beat in coverage, he has to work on being in the right place in order to make the play.
Gilchrist is still making the transition from cornerback, however, free safeties can hurt the entire team by being caught out of position. He must make progression on that in 2016.
Dion Bailey and Rontez Miles are two important guys in the unit as well. Bailey is an energizer bunny who can make plays all over the field when given snaps while Miles is a thumper who can lay the wood over the middle. We saw a lot of Miles in training camp/preseason the past few years and 2015 was the first time he cracked the 53-man roster. Bailey on the other hand gives the Jets fresh legs and flexibility at safety when the starters need a breather.
Both should make the team barring an atrocious preseason.
Ronald Martin and Doug Middleton round out the rest of the group. Martin played his college ball at LSU and he spent eight games with New York last year receiving ample playing time. Middleton was a tackling machine at Appalachian State racking up 127 tackles in his final two seasons. On top of that, he tallied a sack and four interceptions (one pick-six). Both are obviously on the outside looking in, but you have to expect Middleton to give Miles a run at his spot on the roster.
Overall, safety is a position the Jets can continue to lean on. Even though depth is minimal, Pryor and Gilchrist can save the defense on a consistent basis with their ability to tackle and make plays on the football. Expect this unit to continue to make progress and keep Gang Green’s secondary intact.