EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The NFL already knows about the Jets impressive defensive line. Opposing offenses have to worry about blocking Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Damon Harrison up front, but teams are starting to learn that a young safety is emerging as a star in his own right at the back end on this defense.
Last week, after the Jets dismantled the Dolphins, Calvin Pryor was talking to reporters about the game and his devastating hit on Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews when Brandon Marshall walked by and dubbed Pryor "the tone-setter," Marshall followed that up saying "that's Troy Polamalu right there."
In only his second year in the league Pryor has a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Polamalu but opponents are beginning to feel the impact that the 'Louisville Slugger' has on each game. The guys up front do the heavy lifting, battling with the offensive line and trying to force the ball out of the quarterback's hands early and when they do there's Pryor ready to cleanup and drop any receivers who cross his path.
Every great defense needs a big thumper on the back end, a safety valve that can swoop in to crush a receiver going over the middle or a running back breaking through after slipping through the cracks of the defense. For the Jets that thumper goes by the name of Calvin Pryor. All season long Pryor has been flying around the field with a purpose of controlled aggression, he's made numerous tackles in the open field and delivered multiple big hits but he's done so without coming out of his lane.
This is what Marshall meant when he called Pryor the tone-setter, when he invoked the name of Polamalu, the best safeties deliver bone-rattling hits but they also have an ability to freelance under control, just having an instinctual feeling on how to attack offense, and always find themselves in th right position at the right time. This is what Pryor has become and it's an absolute joy to watch.
JetsInsider asked Pryor about Marshall's praise and the tone-setter smiled with pride as he started answering the question.
"Kind of, but he's been telling me that all year," Pryor said. "He looks at the team's with like a Kam Chancellor and that nature, he sets the tone for those guys, and he came and talked to me early in the season and said I have the ability to be one of those types of players. So, that's definitely where it comes from, it's not just happen at this moment or last game. He's been telling me that from early on in the season."
As his coach Todd Bowles loves what he's seeing from Pryor out on the field, but for Bowles Pryor's impact all stems from his maturity level and the ability to lead, both vocally and by an example, and it's even more impressive that Pryor can do this on a defense already filled with leaders.
"I think he's still developing, it's his second year, so he still has a lot to learn, but his maturity level and his understanding of the game is very good," Bowles said. "He's very vocal in the back end and obviously he made a hit last weekend, but his vocal part and his leadership from that standpoint has meant more to us than everything else."
Because we live in such an impatient society Pryor was labeled a bust last year, this year he's proving to be exactly what John Idzik and Rex Ryan thought he'd be when they drafted him. Those two men made numerous mistakes during their time with the Jets, but Pryor is proving that drafting the 'tone-setter' was not one of those mistakes.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)