ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini has a piece today in which he describes how the Jets rebuilt their secondary in the offseason to stop the Patriots' tight end duo. Here is an excerpt:
Rex Ryan never stops thinking about the New England Patriots. He admitted as much Monday, also acknowledging he has made specific personnel moves to counter the Patriots' offensive weaponry.
The New York Jets traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie in 2010. They drafted cornerback Kyle Wilson the same year. The latest additions to the anti-Patriot missile system were safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, both of whom were acquired last offseason to combat tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
"We've built our team up on the back end to match up with them," Ryan said.
Under Ryan, the Jets have beaten the Patriots more than any other team -- a 3-4 record -- but the challenge changed in 2010 and 2011. That's when the Patriots turned their offense into a tight end-palooza, with Gronkowski and Hernandez shredding opponents with their power, speed and athleticism.
The Jets got Gronked in the previous meeting, last November at MetLife Stadium, where Gronkowski caught eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns -- a 37-16 Patriots victory. The Jets couldn't cover him. Their undersized safeties, Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith, bounced off the 6-foot-7 tight end as if they were trying to tackle a giant redwood.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum didn't make too many splashy moves in the offseason, but two of the more significant ones were Bell and Landry.
The Jets jumped on Landry early in free agency, hoping to reinvent the once-dynamic player who was on the verge of stardom with the Washington Redskins before injuries hit. When Ryan learned that Bell had become a cap casualty of the Miami Dolphins, he made one of his trademark house calls, flying down to South Florida to recruit the tough, savvy veteran.
On Sunday, we'll find out if the Jets done good. They finally have a safety tandem they believe can deal with Gronkowski and Hernandez.