Jon Scott of Patriots Insider asked Jets Insider Dan Leberfeld ten questions about New York for this week's matchup. Here are the next five questions covering the Jets defense. Don't miss the other three parts of the series: Jets - Patriots
1) You predicted the Jets would have trouble with Jacksonville, which they did. You mentioned Maurice Jones-Drew. Was his performance the biggest threat you saw, are there other concerns with the Jets defense?
Dan Leberfeld: Jones-Drew was the biggest problem. He is an awesome player. When ILB David Harris misses a bunch of tackles, you know the opposing back is special. Harris is a textbook tackler. To the Jets credit, they got more comfortable in dealing with this freak in the second half, and did a much better job. But then they had a major breakdown late in the passing game - tight end Marcedes Lewis, was wide open on a pass down the field,a nd that essentially lost them the game because it put the Jags in field goal range, and that kick was the game-winner.
The Jets really need Lito Sheppard to play up to his significant ability. In his defense, he has been banged up most of the year. But this guy is a very talented cornerback in his prime, and the Jets really need him to have a huge game against New England, with all the weapons the Pats bring to the table. We know how great Revis is, but the Jets are going to need their other covers guys to bring their "A" game, and I think Sheppard could be the key to this game.
2) What are the major contributing factors to the Jets having the 3rd best defense in terms of yardage?
Leberfeld: Rex Ryan is a great defensive coach with a terrific scheme. His top-shelf defensive mind is the reason he got the Jets job. Since Rex's scheme is so confusing for opposing offensive lines, they often have to play with Max Protection, so less players are going out on routes. This has helped the Jets secondary too consistently be one of the league's highest ranked units. But I don't want to sell the second short. It's not just the Max Protection that has helped them - they have played well also. The addition of safety Jim Leonhard has been huge. He's one of the smartest players I've ever covered, and he's the traffic cop of the secondary.
3) Vernon Gholston has been criticized for his play since being selected in the first round of last year's Draft. Has he improved, and what kind of impact has he had on the overall defense?
Leberfeld: He will be inactive this week with a pulled hamstring.
He's had the impact on the Jets defense than Shawn Crable has had on the New England defense.
Gholston has had little impact since his arrival. He has a really hard time getting off blocks, which is a big problem for a pass rusher. He also doesn't have great instincts.
When you pick these hybrid defensive end/outside linebackers, it's a major crapshoot, and it often doesn't work out. The NFL landscape is littered with players that haven't worked out along the lines of Gholston. Pass rushing in college is way different than pass rushing in the NFL.
Gholston is a good guy, who seems to be trying hard, but it's just not working out.
4) With Kris Jenkins done for the season, how have the Jets adjusted?
Leberfeld: The Jenkins loss is a huge one for the Jets, but honestly, while it's hurt them, the defense hasn't fallen off the cliff without him. Sione Pouha has done a solid job as the starting nose tackle. Another player who has helped a great deal is University of Maine product, and Cape Cod-native Mike DeVito. He was outstanding against the Jaguars last week.
While Jenkins is a great player, let's not forget, the Jets lost the last three games he played in. I'm not playing Kris at all for these losses, but it's a fact.
The Jets aren't as a good a defense without Jenkins, but they have adjusted.
5) The Jets have been able to play solid pass defense, limiting opponents to fewer than 300 yards passing per game. Brady is coming off four 300-yard outings in a row. How do you see that matchup playing out?
Leberfeld: This matchup is going to be much tougher for Brady than those other matchups.
The Tennessee blowout was against a secondary missing a few players, including their best corner, Cortland Finnegan, against Miami, the Dolphins were starting two rookie corners. Indianapolis was missing both starting cornerbacks and Bob Sanders. I'm not going to go down the whole schedule, and I'm taking anything away from Brady, who I think is the best QB of all time, but he's faced some bad secondary's. That is a fact.
Revis might be the best cornerback in the league. Sheppard is finally healthy, so he should be more effective this week. Bill Belichick is a huge fan of Jets safety Kerry Rhodes. At the other safety spot, it's up in the air who will start Jim Leonhard or Eric Smith, but both are really smart, instinctive players. Nickel and dime backs Dwight Lowery and Donald Stickland are also solid. Bart Scott and David Harris are good coverage linebackers.
You get my drift. I'm sure Brady will have a terrific game. He usually does, but going over 300 is going to be hard.
1) What is the real story with Rex Ryan showing emotion after the Jags loss, Was Ryan crying, or is that just a convenient punch line for the media?
Leberfeld: I really don't care. These kind of stories drive me nuts. Who cares if he cried when addressing the team? Dick Vermeil would cry all the time. It doesn't really mean much. In a way, I think it might actually help the Jets. The players love Rex, and for them to see him so devastated by all the losing recently, they are going to be possessed on Sunday to get him a "W."
Too many people in the football media in this country focus on things that don't matter. That is one of many things I like about Belichick - when's he asked about something that doesn't have anything to do with winning on Sunday, he dismisses it.
This should have been a note early in the week, and then gone away, just like Belichick going for it on fourth-and-two. Move on people!
Hot Topic: Patriots-Jets: Official Game Thread Week 11