When you break down the Jets position-by-position, they do not have a lot of deficiencies. If quarterback Mark Sanchez plays well this will be an excellent team; if he doesn’t, then they won’t be. That said, I do think when you look at the safety position there are some subtle concerns.
Strong safety Jim Leonhard is a tough and competitive player. He is a guy who can get everyone lined up and in position. He understands his and everyone else’s responsibilities on the field. He is smart, instinctive and makes a lot of plays against the run but is limited in pass coverage. He can cover hash to hash or sideline to sideline but is limited when he gets caught in the middle of the field. He does not show range from the middle of the field to the sideline. He struggles to cover the tight end in man coverage and gets separated from them too quickly.
Free safety Eric Smith is coming off a subpar season. He played in all 16 games but had only 48 tackles, one interception and no sacks. In his four-year Jets career, he has only four interceptions. He does not give the Jets that big ability you like from a player who often gets caught playing in the middle of the field because of the aggressiveness of the Jets’ pressure packages. Smith has very good height and size for the position but he is more of a straight-line player. He can get out of position in the passing game because he is not quick to flip his hips. He does not show great instincts on plays in front of him. Even though he has good speed he does not break quickly on balls thrown in front of him.
The depth at this position is not impressive. Brodney Pool has some experience from his days with the Cleveland Browns, but is not a guy who brings a lot to the table other than a good understanding of the defensive scheme.
This is a sore spot for the Jets and any injuries at the position would be crippling to their defense.