- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the eighth part in a nine-part review of the 2011 season, a position-by-position analysis:
Overall grade (on a scale of 1 to 10): 8.0.
Depth chart: Darrelle Revis (16 starts/1,036 plays), Antonio Cromartie (16/966), Eric Smith (14/966), Jim Leonhard (13/798), Kyle Wilson (6/587), Brodney Pool (6/561), Donald Strickland (1/329), Marquice Cole (0/51), Tracy Wilson (0/15), Isaiah Trufant (0/12).
Gold star: Revis.
Stat check: The Jets held opposing QBs to a 69.6 passer rating, third-best in the league.
Analysis: By and large, the pass defense was pretty good. How, we're not sure. The Jets struggled to defend the middle of the field, but still finished No. 5 in pass defense. Most of the credit goes to the cornerbacks, especially Revis, who made his fourth straight Pro Bowl. He was scary good for the first half of the season, suffered a couple of hiccups (Stevie Johnson, anyone?), and regained his form. Teams picked on him more than usual (he had a team-high 24 pass break-ups), but that's because he played a lot in zero coverage -- no safety help over the top. He allowed only one TD pass.
Cromartie (six TD passes allowed, six penalties) said he had a chip on his shoulder to prove he's better than Nnamdi Asomugha. He didn't, but he graded out fairly well. He was up and down in the beginning, especially with silly penalties, but he settled down and did a better job of using his hands to jam receivers. Unfortunately, his season will be remembered for the missing tackle on Victor Cruz's 99-yard TD. Nickel back Kyle Wilson missed on that one, too, but this was a positive season. He allowed three TD passes and committed only one penalty, making nice strides after a rough rookie year. But there were times, especially in the red zone, when he gave too much cushion.
The safety play ranged from subpar to average. It's hard to believe, but only three of the 19 interceptions came from the safety position. Smith's role was too big for him, especially late in the year when he was playing on a bum knee. He was an every-down player (and also played on some special teams), put into some difficult matchup situations. He couldn't cover big, athletic tight ends. He also was responsible for missed tackles on the two biggest plays on the year, Cruz's TD and Tim Tebow's TD run. The defense missed Leonhard (knee surgery) and his intangibles because, let's be honest, Pool is just a guy. The Jets have to get better at safety.
2012 free agents: Leonhard (UFA), Pool (UFA), Strickland (UFA), Cole (RFA).
On the bubble: Smith.
Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.