Throughout the tenure of Rex Ryan with the New York Jets, the team has relied heavily on its secondary while supporting the front seven. In the first few seasons of the Rex Ryan era the front seven was very stout against the run, but blitzes and complex coverages were the preferred route to combat the passing games of opposing offenses. Recently, even the ability of the defense to stop the run took a backseat to the talented secondary the Jets trotted out onto the field. Now, with recent high draft picks Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, and Sheldon Richardson in the front seven stepping into starring roles and the departure of Darrelle Revis, the formula has changed.
The New York Jets' defense is set to rely heavily on a front seven made up of rising stars expected to fully breakout (Muhammad Wilkerson), young players that have shown flashes in limited playing time (Quinton Coples, Kenrick Ellis and Demario Davis), solid veterans (David Harris, Antonio Garay) and even a rookie (Sheldon Richardson). Add in a potential bounce back season from Antwan Barnes and possible contributions from Ricky Sapp and Garrett McIntyre, and the front seven is a pretty deep group with a high ceiling.
That hasn't always been the case for the Jets. While the defense has typically been strong against the run under Rex Ryan, pressuring the quarterback has been an ongoing issue. The Jets ended up relying on a supremely-talented secondary, especially at the cornerback position, to counteract their deficiencies rushing the passer. That won't fly this season.
Darrelle Revis was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LaRon Landry signed with the Indianapolis Colts and Yeremiah Bell is no longer with the team. Antonio Cromartie is the lone holdover from last season's Week one secondary. The Jets have added Dawan Landry, Kyle Wilson filled in for Darrelle Revis last year (hopefully Dee Milliner is healthy) and Antonio Allen could be a potential fix at the other safety position, but they won't be able to stack up position-for-position with the aforementioned group.
That will shift the burden back to the young, talented front seven. It won't be completely foreign to Rex Ryan, given his background as an excellent defensive line coach and his time with a Baltimore Ravens defense built around a superb front seven. It will be an adjustment as far as his tenure here with the Jets. For the majority of his time as Jets head coach the defense has counted on its secondary to lengthen the clock for the pass rush to get to the quarterback. Now, the pass rush will be counted on to shorten the clock for the secondary.