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Rex Ryan Has The Horses To Turn This Defense Into A Monster
Posted 05 July 2009 - 12:02 PM
#5 Jets Defense: Ready To Rise
REX RYAN is promising to turn the Meadowlands into Baltimore North, and he has the horses to do it
Damon HackBESIDES THE BRASH GOALS HE ANNOUNCED when he was introduced to the media as coach of the New York Jets on Jan. 21—Super Bowl titles! White House visits! World domination!—Rex Ryan made a more immediate statement about the kind of defense the Jets will field in 2009. "We want to be known as the most physical football team in the NFL," Ryan said that day. "The players will have each other's backs, and if you take a swipe at one of ours, we'll take a swipe at two of yours."
Translation? The Jets will unleash a nasty, attacking, ball-hawking defense that will punish offenses week after week. And the pieces are already in place for the Jets to field one of the most productive fantasy football defenses in the league.
Ryan's units in Baltimore, where he was coordinator for four seasons, were routinely among the most dependable in creating turnovers and denying points. Last year the Ravens led the NFL with 34 takeaways and held opponents to 10 points or fewer seven times—only Pittsburgh did it more often (eight times). Expect that productivity to continue with the Jets, whose read-and-react 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini will become a blitz-happy 3-4 defense under Ryan.
The transition shouldn't be a difficult one, especially with two former Ravens—linebacker Bart Scott (83 tackles, 1½ sacks) and safety Jim Leonhard (68 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception)—adding to an already talented core. Expect Scott to quickly assume a leadership role similar to Ray Lewis's in Baltimore. Up front, Jets nosetackle Kris Jenkins (52 tackles, 3½ sacks) is the premier run-stopper in the league, a player to whom the Jets will try to funnel the action.
The turnovers and fantasy points will mostly come from two areas: the sacks and forced fumbles from pressure created off the edge and the interceptions created in the secondary. Pass rushers Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas and especially Vernon Gholston—who had a disappointing 2008 rookie campaign—will each have a chance to reinvent themselves in Ryan's system. (They combined for 20½ sacks in '08.)
The most intriguing part of the new-look Jets, though, could be the secondary. Leonhard was the perfect complement to Baltimore's Ed Reed, who finished 2008 with nine interceptions. Expect Jets safety Kerry Rhodes to see an increase from his two interceptions in '08. The over-under starts at four picks. Take the over.
"We've got a free safety [Rhodes] that's a ball hawk and, to me, the best corner in football," Ryan said of Darrelle Revis. "That's a pretty good starting point."
With Leonhard also returning punts and Leon Washington (four kickoff-return TDs in three seasons) returning kicks on special teams, the prospects for huge fantasy production out of the Jets' defense could not be better.
The Jets may or may not win a Super Bowl this season, but their defense could help somebody win a fantasy football title.
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