Jets' secondary moves more striking than Scott

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
10:41
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

As much as everybody will focus on the New York Jets' acquisition of linebacker Bart Scott, their most impressive maneuvers are happening in the secondary.

Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News is reporting the Jets have completed a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard for a fifth-round draft choice this year and a conditional choice in 2010.

But that's not all. The Jets also are close to signing former Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cory Ivy and on Saturday will host another of head coach Rex Ryan's favorite pupils, Jim Leonhard.

The help is needed. Although the Jets had two sensational defensive backs in Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes, the rest of their defensive backfield was so weak they ranked 29th last year in pass defense, yielding 234.5 yards a game.

Sheppard and Revis could form one of the more impressive cornerback tandems in the league.

Leonhard and Rhodes would be a solid pairing, too.

"It's not just about the secondary," Ryan said Friday night on a conference call in which the Jets withheld comment on Sheppard. "It's how they play collectively, all 11 guys.

"I think when you look statistically, we've led the league in interceptions two out of the last three years at Baltimore. I'm excited about this group. I think this group here has some special talent when you talk about a Revis, when you talk about a Kerry Rhodes and young corner in [Dwight] Lowery. I think it has a chance to be special group."

Leonhard, undrafted and 5-foot-8, finished fourth on the Ravens in tackles -- behind Ray Lewis, Scott and Terrell Suggs -- with 85. He also had one sack and one interception. He was fabulous in the playoffs, recording an interception and two forced fumbles.

"Jim Leonhard is special," Ryan said. "No. 1, he looks like the guy delivering papers. He really is a smart player. He has a lot of poise. He's very sure of himself.

"For some reason he gets saddled because he's short, but this guy's an outstanding athlete. He won two slam-dunk contest at the University of Wisconsin. He's an outstanding punt returner. I've always said he could catch a punt in a hurricane.

"He's a smart, tough, passionate guy. You try to build your team with those kinds of players."

When asked if the infusion of Ravens defenders would create a resemblance, Ryan didn't hesitate.

"I think it will in production," Ryan said. "I think we're going to have an outstanding defense, and that's right out of the gate. I know the expectations. They should be high for this unit, just like it should be high for this football team."

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