There aren't many certainties about the New York Jets heading into 2012, but there is one thing that's indisputable; the best player on the New York Jets (and one of the top players in all of football) is in their defensive backfield. Darelle Revis gives the Jets' defense a unique weapon that most teams in the NFL simply don't have. The Jets can essentially eliminate their opponents' best wide receiver whenever Revis suits up. Of course, there were questions heading into training camp on whether or not Revis would show up, whether this training camp would be a replay of the 2010 camp where Revis was a hold out. Well, for the time being, Revis is here and we'll have to assume that Revis Island will be open for business come Week 1 in Buffalo (and if not, there goes the whole ‘certainty' thing I just alluded to, oh well).
Projected Jets 2012 Secondary: Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant; Safeties: LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Eric Smith, Josh Bush, Antonio Allen
Let's start with the cornerbacks. Obviously there's Revis, and as long as he's healthy he's hands down the best cornerback in football. Opposite Revis, for the third straight season, is the enigma Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie is a feast or famine type of player. He's very gifted athletically but often makes boneheaded mistakes. He gets picked on a lot because, let's face it, quarterbacks stay away from Revis, and they have to try to throw to somebody. But Cromartie is by no means a bad player. While he makes some head-scratching plays (penalties etc.), you could do a lot worse than Antonio Cromartie as your second corner. But please, keep him off the field as a kick and punt returner. He's a backbreaking fumble waiting to happen.
Kyle Wilson comes into his third year, and it really could be a make or break year for him. Wilson was a first round pick - perhaps a curious one given the Jets' depth at corner when they took him - and in year three you have to see a jump in production. At this point, the Jets should feel comfortable if Cromartie got hurt that Wilson could step right in and be the number two. I doubt they feel that way, and I wouldn't if I were them. Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant are the depth/special teams guys on the unit.
Safety was a weak link in the Jets' defense last year, and the team hopes they've made major upgrades with the additions of veterans LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Jim Leonhard was a solid contributor for the past three seasons, but was oft-injured. Eric Smith was exposed last year when he had to start, and proved that he simply isn't an NFL starting safety. He's okay in the role he'll return to this season as a situational player. In Landry (if healthy, a big if) and Bell, the Jets have two solid starters. Bell, while 34 years old, hasn't missed a game in the past four seasons. Rookies Josh Bush and Antonio Allen round out the safety corps.
It's obvious that the Jets' defense is going to be their strength, and that's how Rex Ryan wants it. He's publicly stated that he wants to return to a run-the-ball-and-play-defense style. While the NFL seems to be going the other way on that one, Rex has proved to be pretty stubborn. But when you look at the Jets' roster (and we'll get to previewing the offense next), they have far more reliable talent on the defensive side. And if you take the Jets' three defensive units, the secondary is probably the strongest top-to-bottom (ahead of the linebackers and defensive line).
Now, let's just hope the Jets wise up and pay Darelle Revis.