Rex Ryan has just announced that starting safety Jim Leonhard will not play on Monday night against the New England Patriots. Leonhard hurt his shin in practice today by colliding with receiver Patrick Turner and it is believed the injury is relatively severe and could be season ending.
Eric Smith will take over Leonhard’s spot, with Brodney Pool sliding in alongside him as the other starting safety. This is obviously a big blow to the Jets already inconsistent defense, considering Leonhard’s knowledge of the system.
Leonhard is also the team’s punt returner. Ryan mentioned Jerricho Cotchery, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, and Joe McKnight as potential replacements. Kyle Wilson has taken reps at punt returner this year but struggled. Cotchery would normally be the most reliable but he is returning from a groin injury.
Smith, Pool, and James Ihedigbo all need to step up in Leonhard’s absence. In terms of punt return, I hate to risk Holmes or Cromartie back there and I could see the Jets taking a committee approach, at least this week.