Florham Park N.J. - The old saying is: defense wins championships. Last season, New York was ranked fourth in the league in overall team defense and second in rush defense. With a year of the new system under their belt, expectations have risen for the Jets defense to find consistency while collecting more turnovers and sacks. If the Jets want to be in the discussion for a championship, a defensive specialist head coach like Todd Bowles will have to prepare his team enough to answer three questions in training camp next month.
1) When Muhammad Wilkerson returns and the Opening Day lineup is set, how can the Jets incorporate Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams in a cohesive defensive scheme?
Todd Bowles has stayed true to his 3-4 base defense. And with the infusion of youth the Jets have on the defensive line as well as their linebacker unit, there is no reason for Bowles to change. This means the three-down lineman: Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams, are responsible for occupying the offensive line to free the linebackers to make big plays.
With that said, Bowles has a challenge to try to get the Jets version of "The Big Three" on the field for the majority of the game. That will be the most effective. One of the issues with a 3-4 defense is that a nose tackle is almost always used. By trade, the Jets do not have a nose tackle since Damon Harrison bolted to the Giants in free agency. But, being that Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams are all young, talented, and able to adjust on the fly, expect Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers to design a scheme that can adjust depending on the opponent. It would be a safe bet that the coaching staff will find a way to keep the big three on the field together.
2) The Jets wanted an infusion of youth at linebacker. What can we expect from the young core in 2016-17?
New York certainly got younger. Gone are mainstays Calvin Pace and DeMario Davis. Enter Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins. The two linebackers taken 20th and 83rd overall respectively have brought major expectations after impressive college careers and minicamps. The two college roommates join the veteran David Harris and talented energizer bunny Lorenzo Mauldin as players who add strength and speed to what used to be a depleted linebacker core. Once depleted, now overflowing with potential.
After noteworthy OTAs from the two rookies, Lee and Jenkins can only progress more in training camp into defensive threats in the backfield. Also keep an eye on Erin Henderson, Bruce Carter, and Freddie Bishop III who have the ability to stop the run. But, none of these members of the revamped linebacker core are shying away from the challenge.
On the Jets defensive youth movement, Todd Bowles said: "I thought we wanted to have overall team speed. At linebacker, you always want to be a little faster at each position. We thought we got better in the draft at overall team speed.”
Do you still believe in Darrelle Revis? NFL Network recently ranked him #24 on the Top 100 NFL Players of 2016. He may not be as fast as he used to be, but his four fumble recoveries led the league in 2015 and five interceptions were most since 2009. He can still play cornerback.
Someone who Jets fans have not seen much of due to endless injuries is Dee Milliner. Milliner is on a mission in 2016. While he will not exactly be a starting cornerback this season, Milliner is expected to start in certain packages with a variety of matchups. When healthy, the Alabama alumnus has effective speed and vertical leverage on average-sized wideouts. Milliner arguably had the most impressive minicamp on the team and remains committed to contribute to the team on the field.
Both Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams had an above average 2015 campaign. Skrine finished the year with seven passes defended, one interception, and 46 total tackles. Williams busted onto the scene with the Jets in 2014 when he had one interception and seven passes defended in eight games. Last year, his workload grew as Williams played in 13 games recording six interceptions as he emerged as the Jets number two cornerback.
With a defensive line as talented as the Jets with Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams, and an explosive linebacker unit of Lee, Jenkins, Mauldin, and Harris, the cornerbacks should benefit from the hurried throws from opposing quarterbacks.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (email@example.com)null