With the additions of Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, Josh Bush and Antonio Allen late in the draft last month, the Jets have made a concise decision to put a stop team’s beating them with their tight ends.
In the past the Jets have been among the bottom in the league as far as defenses against the tight end — where their safeties have either been outweighed or outmatched against the surging trend of athletic tight ends. Now with Bell and Landry seemingly the team’s starting safeties, with Eric Smith filling in when needed, offers a tough-guy attitude to the defensive secondary with their shutdown corner tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
Bell, who led the Dolphins with 107 tackles and has done so the last four seasons, is an in-the-box defender who has no problem getting physical in the grill of the more imposing tight ends in the league. Landry plays a similar style of game, however it remains to be seen how returns from an Achilles’ injury. He hasn’t been able to participate in the team’s voluntary workouts.
Assuming that both are at full health come Week 1, they could be the missing link in new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar’s revamped 46 defense. The Star Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas wrote how utilizing a defensive front carousel of first-round picks Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples with savvy veterans Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha and others could wreak havoc on opposing team’s quarterbacks all season long. Something similar to the cross-town Giants’ “NASCAR defense” that led the team to their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons.
The 46 defense, as Vremtas puts it, is one variation of a 4-3 front, with four down linemen and eight men in the box. Dunbar has a long history with it, dating back to his days as a defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals from 1994-95, when Buddy Ryan was his head coach and Rex was his position coach.
Against teams like the New England Patriots, however, it will be the play of the safeties that will determine the success of the 46 defense. Many teams, like the Patriots, have a big portion of their offensive playbook dedicated to the spread offense and use the space and 1-on-1 coverage to attack defenses with their two-headed tight end monster — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Having Landry and/or Bell play in the box, in a bump-and-run type coverage on the line of scrimmage, will utilize the safeties in an area where they excel at, and presumably be able to knock of the timing of the tight ends. The luxury of trusting in the man coverage skills of Revis and Cromartie should allow Bell or Landry to devote their attention to the tight ends lined up in the box with the other playing center field, assuming their duty of covering the middle third of the field.
After playing against the Patriots twice — where the Hernandez/Gronkowski combination burned the Jets for 32 receptions on 419 receiving yards and three scores in the regular season — the Jets have Vernon Davis, Heath Miller, Antonio Gates and Mercedes Lewis among others to game plan for.
Hopefully for Ryan and the defense the addition of Bell, Landry and more of the 46 defense will improve their play versus the tight end.
Check out the informative video above from the Football Gameplan Network on how a 46 defense can defend a spread offense.
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