Bradway looks at the defense/Vilma signs

Jets general manager Terry Bradway spoke with Randy Lange of The Record and Jets Confidential at length in the past week about how he views each position on the Jets heading into training camp. In this second and last installment, Bradway focuses on the defense on the day he signed his first round pick - linebacker Jonathan Vilma.<p>

Q)The D-line has all those first-round draft picks and all that potential. How do you feel about it this summer?

Bradway: We're basically looking at the same group we had last year with John [Abraham], Shaun [Ellis], Bryan [Thomas] and Matt [Walters] at end and Dewayne [Robertson], Jason [Ferguson], Josh [Evans] and Tank [James Reed] at tackle. The good thing is that Josh will be here for the whole season. John Abraham's healthy. That group's got to play well -- there's too much firepower up there. Shaun's been our most consistent player the past couple of years. John will have to have a big impact this year. The way Donnie [Henderson] will switch defenses and move him around a little bit, he'll have a chance to be pretty good. The key is him staying healthy.

This is a key year for Alan Harper. It was his choice to go over to Europe. He wanted to play, get himself on tape, and he did well. We'll have to see where that goes. [Seventh-round end] Trevor Johnson could be in a situation where he's making the 53. He's got good athletic ability and we liked his effort in the off-season. We'll just have to see where he ends up. The line remains the strength of the defense. If we can get those guys to take it to another level, we've got a chance to be successful.

Q)Talk a little more about Robertson. In Year 2, can he start to realize the greatness that you and a lot of people saw in him in last year's draft?

Bradway: Dewayne should play better this year. Getting his first year under his belt was good. It was hard for him to reach all those expectations put on him, but he's a pretty good football player and he had a good off-season. I asked [new line coach] Denny Marcin about him, he meets with Dewayne regularly, and he feels Dewayne wants to be a really good player.

Q)How about the linebackers, who underwent an extreme makeover this off-season?

Bradway: Yes, we had almost a complete overhaul. When you look at the group, I like the addition of [Eric] Barton -- he never came off the field for Oakland. Victor [Hobson] is playing on the tight end. There'll be competition between [first-rounder Jonathan] Vilma and [Sam] Cowart for that middle spot. Then there'll be some very good competition for the backup spots. Jason Glenn played a lot in the nickel. We identified [seventh-rounder Darrell] McClover as a special-teams guy. Kenyatta Wright, our top special teams guy last year, basically is a middle linebacker -- can you carry three of them? We'll see. Then there's Mark Brown, who we liked last year, and Quincy Stewart played some.

Q)And how about Ryan Myers, who did a great job in NFL Europe?

Bradway: Ryan could be the wild card. We really didn't know a lot about him, but he went over to Europe and ended up as his team's leading tackler. The night after the 2003 draft, when you just sign [free agent] players, basically we had committed to Ryan but we found we had enough guys signed, so we backed out. We told him if he didn't get picked up, we'd take a look at him this year. He was a pleasant surprise, the way he played in Europe -- we know who he is now. Mike Westhoff will give him a lot of chances on special teams.

Q)Can the youth at linebacker overcome some inexperience there?

Bradway: It's more athletic than we've been, it's younger. There isn't one guy over 30 in that group. Sam's the oldest at 29, Barton's 27, Hobson's 24, Vilma's 22. So if that group catches on quickly and combines with the front four, then we have a chance to be a pretty good front seven.

Q)Let's turn to the secondary. Do you have concerns there?

Bradway: There are fewer question marks at cornerback. With Donnie [Abraham] and David [Barrett], we've got two solid starters. With Ray, we've got a proven nickel back. With [third-rounder] Derrick Strait, he's a guy we really like and I'm sure he's going to play in the sub, and you'd hope after a year he'd be in position to be competing for a starting job. So we've got four there, and even guys like [Roderick] Bryant and [Jon] Pendergrass could give a run for the money in terms of carrying five corners.

Q)But safety is more problematic?

Bradway: It's kind of a question mark right now. They need to come together quickly. I think Reggie [Tongue] will be solid, but it's a new system for him. He's been durable and that's good. like Jon McGraw a lot but he has to prove he can stay healthy. [Fifth-rounder] Erik [Coleman] had a good off-season and he and [Derek] Pagel are battling for the third spot. I think Erik probably made as good an impression of any of the rookies coming in with the exception of Vilma, in terms of his knowledge and his ability to study and see it, which will give him an opportunity to play. Then we have Rashad Washington and Omare Lowe. There's competition there. That group has to come on quickly.

Q)And Donnie Henderson is charged with pulling this side of the ball together. How's he done so far as a coordinator?

Bradway: I sure hope he can keep up that pace the whole season. Coming from where he came from in Baltimore, with the attitude of that defense, in some way, shape or form if he can transfer that over to our group ... He's been hard on them, demanding. That's what they need. But he's excited about the opportunity.

It's kind of funny. Here's a guy none of us was really tied to -- he wasn't Gunther Cunningham or anyone else we had a history with. He's been around some good people. He played a lot of young players, he's played free agent corners, he's coached tough guys to coach. When he gets them all in the meeting room, he's real good with them. You've got to be on top of your game because he's going to challenge you. Now we've got to go do it.

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