Three & Out: A Look At The Defense

All the buzz around the Jets is centered on players whose jerseys read "Sanchez" and "Holmes" and "Tomlinson" but don't forget about that top-ranked Jets' defense, writes Matt Whitfield.

It's a curious thing – the Jets finished last year with the NFL's top defense and nary a peep about the unit this off-season. This despite the fact that the team added a potential top five cornerback in Antonio Cromartie via trade and used a first-round picks on another addition to the secondary.

The Jets defense might be even better this year than last year's top-ranked bunch. A look at how the unit is shaping up with "Three & Out: Three Points on the Jets Defense."

1. The Harris Factor: Simply put, David Harris is one of the most under-rated players in the AFC. Quietly, he was ninth in the league last year in tackles and also led the Jets with a team high 127 stops. Of course, performing well is nothing new for Harris. In his rookie season in 2007, he led the Jets in tackles and finished eighth in the league in that category. In 2008 Harris only played in 11 games due to a groin injury, but still finished fourth on the team in tackles, then recovering last year for a splendid season in 2009.

Last year was a statement season for the linebacker who consistently drew praise from head coach Rex Ryan. If you look at the numbers in Harris's past three seasons (taking into consideration he missed five games in 2008), his numbers are on par with the Texans' linebacker DeMeco Ryans, a player who gets plenty of fan fare and accolades.

In a contract year, look for Harris to step up and make some big plays.

2. Addition By Subtraction: The Jets allowed a league low eight passing touchdowns and 2,704 passing yards last season, among the best numbers conceded this decade. Assuming there are no holdout issues with secondary leader Darrelle Revis, this season should be addition by subtraction with the release of Lito Shephard and the trade of Kerry Rhodes.

Although Rhodes was a fan and clubhouse favorite, he had by far his best seasons with the Jets during his first two years in a green uniform and had fallen out of favor with some of his coaches.

The addition of Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson adds youth and size to the secondary.

3. Taylor's Role: For Jets fans hoping for Jason Taylor to re-emerge as a top linebacker, don't get your hopes up too high. Taylor is almost 36 years ago old and hasn't been dominant since 2006 when he won the defensive player of the year award. It's been quite a fall from there as he has averaged just 43 tackles and seven sacks the past three seasons.

But, Taylor isn't being called on to be a playmaker and is more of a role player with the Jets. The 3-4 defense and a number of other top linebackers around him means that Taylor can focus on getting after the quarterback and just has to fit into a rotation that includes the likes of Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and the aforementioned David Harris.

This year isn't about padding the stats in a career that should send him to Canton someday – this is all about getting Taylor that ring before he retires. Expectations of Jason Taylor, circa 2006, are unrealistically high.

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