New York Jets: Antonio Allen

Jets preview: Make-or-break stretch

August, 27, 2014
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In a span of 12 days in October, the Jets face San Diego (away), Denver and New England (away) -- Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, respectively. For the Jets and their suspect secondary, it will be the Missiles of October. It would be an extraordinary accomplishment if they could win two out of three in that stretch of the schedule. If they can get through the Patriots with the 4-3 record or better, they'd be in great shape for a second-half run. On the flip side, the Jets' season could be blown up by Halloween if they fall apart against the Rivers-Manning-Brady troika.

Complete Jets season preview.

Jets get defensive -- after the game

August, 17, 2014
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CINCINNATI -- From the first whistle to the final tape-recorder click in the postgame interviews, the New York Jets were the New York Bullies. Still smarting from last year's 40-point blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, they went into Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night with an attitude seldom seen in the preseason. They played like hockey goons, offering no apologies for seven personal-foul penalties. They defended their beleaguered secondary with a "How-dare-you-question-us?" chippiness.

[+] EnlargeBengals-Jets
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBengals receiver Mohamed Sanu's 43-yard score on what Rex Ryan called blown coverage was but one example of the Jets' secondary struggles.
Rex Ryan was so prickly in his postgame news conference that it made you think, "Wow, who poured lemonade in his Skyline chili?"

The Jets beat the Bengals, 25-17, but forget about the outcome. Their starting defense -- specifically, the secondary -- was torched by Andy Dalton & Co. That was the most important takeaway from the game -- that, and the way they reacted to the postgame inquisition. Clearly, Ryan used the occasion (the scene of last year's debacle) and the adversity (patchwork secondary) to instill an attitude in his team -- a method to the madness, if you will.

"I won't be answering any questions about the secondary," Ryan said at the top of his presser. "Dalton looked like a $100 million quarterback."

It was a lighthearted comment, but then came the snark. He wondered why anyone wanted his opinion on the secondary because the stories already were written, meaning: The secondary stinks, the Jets are in trouble.

There's certainly cause for concern. With a safety playing cornerback (Antonio Allen), and two backups in the staring lineup (safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and cornerback Ellis Lankster), the Jets made Dalton look like a young Boomer Esiason. He completed all eight of his passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, leading the Bengals to 17 points in three series. Allen allowed a 35-yard pass to A.J. Green, who got away with a push. Kyle Wilson got beat for a 43-yard touchdown by Mohamed Sanu, although Ryan claimed it was a blown coverage and not Wilson's fault. The only bright spot was rookie safety Calvin Pryor, who recovered a fumble and broke up a pass with a big hit.

"Obviously, we've got work to do," Ryan sniffed. "How do you evaluate Calvin Pryor? Do you give him a plus? I don't know, I think he forced two fumbles and knocked some dudes out. I guess we were right about that one. We'll be right on our corners, too. We'll sort it out."

Right now, five cornerbacks are hurt, but the biggest names are Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson, the projected starters. Patterson should be back soon, but his injury history suggests he won't make too long before the next ailment. Milliner could be back by opening day. This was an issue before training camp because they failed to adequately address the position in free agency, and now it's glaring.

Ryan was asked if they have to acquire a veteran corner.

"I don't think Willie Brown is out there," Ryan snapped. "Maybe he is, but he's 60 years old."

The Hall of Famer is actually 73 years old. If Ryan's pass defense doesn't improve, he'll feel that old by the second quarter of the season -- the Missiles of October. That's when they face Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks.

Worried? Not Ryan.

"I rely on what I know, which is 20-something years of experience," he said. "That gives me plenty of confidence."

Linebacker Demario Davis bristled when it was suggested the team doesn't have "elite" corners.

"Who said they're not?" he asked a reporter.

They're not, he was told.

"You can say that after one game?" Davis replied.

Allen played the entire first half with the starters but was tested only once by Dalton -- the long completion to Green. All things considered, it wasn't a bad debut for Allen, but let's not be naive: If it had been a regular-season game, the Bengals would've attacked him. Allen said he wasn't intimidated by having to cover Green, one of the best.

"I was just thinking, it's going to be an all-out fight, me and him, best man wins," Allen said.

Allen's physical attitude spread through the entire team, which crossed the line on several occasions. Most of the personal fouls came from the offensive line, with Brian Winters and Breno Giacomini incurring two apiece. At times, the Jets looked undisciplined. Ironically, the secondary wasn't penalized -- a stunner, considering the current climate in the league. Maybe the corners couldn't get close enough to foul.

Go ahead, laugh. Allen said the secondary is aware of the criticism, and is planning to use it as fuel.

"It motivates us a lot," he said.

No doubt, the Jets came to Cincinnati with something to prove. That they approached a preseason game with such attitude might be foolish, but maybe it's not a bad thing. Ryan is trying to set a tone for the season.

"We're not here to take anyone's stuff," Ryan said, bristiling. "Period."

Training camp preview: Secondary

July, 21, 2014
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Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Secondary

Patterson
Projected starters: Dee Milliner (CB), Dimitri Patterson (CB), Kyle Wilson (slot), Dawan Landry (S), Calvin Pryor (S).

Projected reserves: Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dexter McDougle, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster.

Notables on the bubble: Josh Bush, Ras-I Dowling, Rontez Miles, Brandon Dixon (sixth-round pick).

Player to watch: Pryor. He was drafted 18th overall for a reason, and the reason is because the Jets believe he can be a great safety. Rex Ryan calls him an enforcer, comparing him to the late Jack Tatum. Ryan meant well, but he may have put a target on Pryor's back by putting him in the same sentence as one of the most notorious hitters in NFL history. He'll bring a physical, tough-guy element to the secondary, but what the secondary really needs is big plays -- interceptions, forced fumbles, anything. The secondary frightened no one last season.

Milliner
Top storyline: Did general manager John Idzik leave Ryan short at cornerback? It was one of the greatest cornerback classes in free-agent history and the Jets ended up with ... Patterson, a journeyman. Patterson, 31, with his sixth team, has natural ball skills, but he's never on the field long enough to use them. He has missed 33 of his last 48 games due to injuries. Ryan needs corners for his defense the way humans need water to survive. Milliner holds the key. If he becomes a legitimate No. 1 corner -- dare we say shutdown corner? -- it changes the face of the secondary. For the first time since 2006, the Jets don't have someone named Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie at corner. They need Milliner to ascend to that status.

Training camp will be a success if ... : Pryor is in the Week 1 lineup. The coaches say he's a smart cookie, but we'll see how he adapts when the pads go on and the playbook installation intensifies. It would be a major disappointment if he's not an immediate starter, considering his draft position and the relatively tame competition at safety.

Wild card: Landry's role. He played 98 percent of the defensive snaps last season, but he could lose his starting job if the Pryor-Allen tandem flourishes. Landry, known as "The Mentor," has value because of his smarts. But at what point does intelligence get trumped by youth and speed? It'll be a delicate balancing act in camp. The coaches have to get Landry ready while giving the Pryor-Allen duo a chance to develop chemistry.

By the numbers: The Jets' pass defense wasn't bad last season against three- and four-receiver groupings -- a 77.1 passer rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They struggled when it was only two receivers -- 103.9 rating.

Eight takeaways on Jets' OTA practices

June, 13, 2014
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The New York Jets wrapped up their organized team activity practices Thursday with a team trip to a local bowling alley. Thoughts and observations on the OTA phase of the offseason, which consisted of nine practices:

1. Growing up Smith: Quarterback Geno Smith, the likely opening-day starter, drew praise from teammates on two fronts: He was decisive in the huddle, communicating plays quickly and confidently -- a far cry from last season. They also said he was more assertive than his rookie year, demonstrating more vocal leadership. These are the progressions you'd like to see from a second-year quarterback. As for his actual play, it's hard to gauge in OTAs, but there was an obvious reduction in turnovers and sacks. Clearly, it's Smith's job to lose, even if Rex Ryan is reluctant to put it in those words.

2. Strength in numbers: Ryan likes to brag about the team's backfield depth, but depth is meaningless if half the unit is hurt. Chris Johnson (knee), Daryl Richardson (toe) and Mike Goodson (knee/no-show) didn't participate in the voluntary practices, leaving plenty of work for Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory and Alex Green, who thought he was a goner at one point. Johnson and Richardson should be ready by training camp, but given the amount of durability concerns (let's not forget about Ivory, who has a history of nagging injuries), the Jets should take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when they construct the final roster. In other words, load up on running backs.

3. The battle for No. 2: Since there's no competition at quarterback (in the words of Michael Vick), the most compelling battle is unfolding at wide receiver. Who's the 2? Don't be surprised if Stephen Hill (yeah, him) emerges as the starter opposite Eric Decker. Right now, I'd say the top candidates are Hill and David Nelson, figuring Jeremy Kerley will be in the slot. Clearly, this is a make-or-break year for Hill, who has yet to transfer his elite measureables into production. Hill did fine in the OTAs. but, remember, there was no press coverage (not allowed under CBA rules). Diminutive rookie Jalen Saunders got a lot of quality reps and demonstrated impressive short-area quickness, but again ... no press coverage. The wild card is Jacoby Ford, probably the fastest player on the team. He blew away teammates with his speed, but there are durability and consistency concerns.

4. Mr. Jessie James: Decker made headlines by skipping two days of practice to attend the CMT Awards with his wife, country singer Jessie James, which overshadowed his impressive work on the field. He's learning a new offense and getting comfortable in new surroundings, but their prized free agent appeared right at home. He's big and smooth, as advertised. You could tell he puts a lot of effort into his route running. A couple of times, he was off to the side, working on his footwork with receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Cynics will say Decker looked so good because there isn't much around him. There's an element of truth to that, but you don't catch 24 touchdowns over two years by accident.

5. Youth is served: Ryan put first-round pick Calvin Pryor on the fast track, giving him plenty of first-team reps at safety with Antonio Allen. Is the handwriting on the wall for Dawan Landry? The dean of the secondary was relegated to second- and third-team duty, but that was because the coaches wanted to give Pryor and Allen as much on-the-job training as possible. They still need Landry because of his leadership and knowledge of the defense, but Ryan, who recognizes the need for playmakers in the secondary, is intrigued by the speed and athleticism of the Pryor-Allen tandem. No doubt, Pryor will be a Week 1 starter. The only question is how they divide the other spot.

6. Musical linemen: Willie Colon's injuries allowed them to try different combinations at guard, with Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi working in both spots. Ryan said Aboushi looks better at left guard, meaning Winters could slide to right guard if something happens to Colon down the road. There's nothing wrong with experimenting, especially in June, but it doesn't mask the fact that the Jets have no experienced backups on the offensive line. And we're not counting Caleb Schlauderaff, whose experience consists of 14 regular-season snaps. They need to pick up a veteran at some point before the season.

7. Dee's cranky hamstring: It's probably nothing, but maybe it's something. Cornerback Dee Milliner was limited in recent practices because of what the team is calling "tightness" in his hamstring. Yeah, it's only June, but considering all the buildup surrounding Milliner -- coaches saying how much he'd benefit from his first injury-free offseason -- it was disappointing not to see him build on the momentum of last season's strong finish. This could be a moot point by training camp, but it's worth noting, especially since Milliner was beset with nagging injuries last season and played hurt throughout college with various ailments.

8. Jace not an ace -- yet: Rookie tight end Jace Amaro struggled with dropped passes, probably because his brain was overloaded with new terminology. This is a big transition for the second-round pick, who didn't play in a pro-style offense at Texas Tech. He came from a simple, no-huddle system that didn't require a lot of thinking on your feet. Clearly, he has talent, but his development will be dictated by how quickly he assimilates into Marty Mornhinweg's offense. Don't expect it to happen overnight.

Doing the safety dance with Pryor & Co.

June, 3, 2014
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With first-round pick Calvin Pryor now officially official, having signed his four-year, $8.56 million contract, this is a good time to analyze how the New York Jets might deploy their safeties. It's an interesting question because they have three players they consider starting-caliber safeties -- Pryor, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen.

Pryor
Obviously, we're not talking about the Seattle Seahawks' safety group here, so it shouldn't take long for Pryor to find a place in the starting lineup.

Like Landry and Allen, Pryor is a natural "box" safety, but scouts say his coverage skills are good enough to where he can be used in zone coverage -- i.e. the deep middle -- although no one is calling him a young Ed Reed. Landry, whose coverage skills are extremely limited, offers value in a quarterback-type role -- a heady player who can make sure everyone is lined up properly. Allen is unusal because he has the athleticism to play man-to-man coverage against top tight ends (ask Rob Gronkowski), yet he's a bit shaky in zones because his instincts and reaction skills need work.

So you have three strong-safety types with different strengths and weaknesses. Don't be surprised if Rex Ryan goes back to a three-safety package on certain passing downs, which he did quite often last season. There were many times in which the Jets preferred a third safety (Jaiquawn Jarrett) over a fourth corner in dime situations. Unfortunately, we don't have a breakdown of how often they used a three-safety package, but the snap distribution over the first nine games (before Reed signed) illustrates how much they relied on three safeties as part of the weekly game plan:

Landry -- 620 snaps/99 percent

Allen -- 397/64 percent

Jarrett -- 234/37 percent

When Reed signed, Ryan dropped Allen like a bad habit, using a Reed-Landry tandem for a few games. Finally realizing Reed, 35, no longer was the impact player he remembered from Baltimore, Ryan scaled back Reed's playing time, opting for a late-season platoon system that included Allen. It occurred too late to dramatically change the snap distribution over the final seven games, which clearly shows a reliance on two safeties:

Landry -- 461/97 percent

Reed -- 368/78 percent

Allen -- 137/29 percent

Jarrett -- 43/9 percent

Looking ahead, Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman probably will do a lot of mixing and matching, letting personnel and game situations dictate the lineup. For instance, when the Jets face an athletic, pass-catching tight end, Allen probably will have a greater role in the game plan. Landry's role could shrink as Pryor gets comfortable with the defense from a cerebral standpoint. In the end, you will see a lot of Pryor and a playing-time breakdown that resembles the first nine games from 2013, with three players in contributing roles.

Five burning questions as OTAs begin

May, 27, 2014
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The next phase of the New York Jets' offseason begins Tuesday -- organized team activities. Or, as we like to call them in the biz, OTAs. Five questions facing the Jets as they start three weeks of practices before the mandatory minicamp:

Smith
1. Can Geno Smith hold off Michael Vick? We already know how Vick feels about the subject, as he stated his belief that Smith will be the opening-day quarterback. Vick probably is right, but Smith needs to eliminate any doubts. He can start by building off his promising finish to last season, which means taking control of the offense in OTAs. Smith has impressed teammates with his improved command of the offense, but it's one thing to be that way in a walk-through and quite another to demonstrate it against a live defense.

2. Is Eric Decker worth the money? The Jets, no longer big spenders in free agency, made an exception for Decker, giving him a five-year, $36 million contract. For that kind of loot, they expect him to be more than a nice No. 2 wide receiver. This could be culture shock for Decker, who goes from Peyton Manning to Smith/Vick. Then again, he caught passes from Tim Tebow in 2011, so he should be prepared for anything.

Amaro
3. Can Jace Amaro find an immediate niche? The Jets didn't use a lot of two-tight-end packages last season, but that could change with Amaro joining incumbent Jeff Cumberland at the position. The second-round pick is a big dude (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) with the ability to basically line up as a wide receiver. It will be interesting to see how coordinator Marty Mornhinweg incorporates Amaro into the passing attack.

4. Is Calvin Pryor as good as Rex Ryan thinks? Ryan always gushes about his rookies, but he's positively smitten with his first-round pick. He already has compared Pryor to one of the most notorious safeties in history, the hard-hitting Jack Tatum. It will be interesting to see how Ryan juggles Pryor, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen in the safety rotation -- if there is a rotation. We're talking about three players with similar skill sets -- i.e. strong safety-types.

5. Is it Milliner time? Taking Smith out of the equation, the most improved player on the team has to be cornerback Dee Milliner. If not, the defense will have problems because it's counting on him as the No. 1 cornerback. Milliner has to be the rock in the post-Cromartie/post-Revis era. Last year's top pick, who missed the 2013 off-season because of a shoulder injury, saved a poor rookie year with a strong finish. Now he needs to build on that. Just being on the field, as opposed to rehabbing an injury, will help immensely.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Calvin Pryor doesn't wear a mouthpiece because he doesn't want anything to restrict his yap. The New York Jets' No. 1 pick was a self-proclaimed trash talker in college, and he's not planning to hit the mute button now that he's in the NFL. The hard-hitting safety said Saturday he won't back down against the top receivers, not even against, say, Larry Fitzgerald.

"He's human, right?" Pryor said. "I would have no problem with it at all. ... With me being a rookie, that doesn't mean anything. I am who I am. I'm going to talk trash. If people don't like it, they're going to have to get used to it."

[+] EnlargeCalvin Pryor
AP Photo/Bill KostrounRookie Calvin Pryor has already earned praise for his smarts at Jets rookie minicamp.
Pryor is off to a fast start in rookie camp. Rex Ryan praised his mental aptitude, his ability to digest information and take it to the field. Ryan called Pryor the most impressive player in camp, which is what you'd expect from the 18th overall pick.

The cerebral aspect to the game is important, but Pryor made his name in college based on intimidation -- verbal and physical. He talked smack, and smacked opponents with bone-jarring hits.

"When you're out there and you can talk trash and get into a guy's head, it affects their game a little bit," he said. "That's the main reason why I do it. It's nothing personal against them. It's who I am as a football player.

"You talk trash and you go out there and play crazy and hit guys hard, it's an intimidation factor," Pryor continued. "It's like, 'This guy means what he says.'"

Presumably, Pryor will start at one safety spot, with Dawan Landry or Antonio Allen at the other position. Many have assumed that it'll be Pryor and Landry, the most experienced returning player in the secondary, but it sounds as if Landry could be headed to a reserve role. There had been some speculation after the draft that Landry's roster spot is in jeopardy. Ryan put that to rest -- he called him a "vital member" of the defense -- but he didn't commit to Landry as a starter.

"Landry is going to play a ton, whether it's a clear-cut starter or whatever you want to say ... he'll play," Ryan said. "He'll play in some capacity, and he might end up playing more than any of the other safeties."

One thing is clear: Pryor is the new top dog.

"There will be a lot of jerseys sold with Pryor's name on the back, because I have a feeling he'll become one of the more popular Jets," Ryan said.

Cutting Landry would be a mistake

May, 12, 2014
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Is Dawan Landry in trouble?

The addition of safety Calvin Pryor, drafted 18th overall, has fueled speculation about Landry's future with the New York Jets. The website overthecap.com, which does great work on contract and cap-related trends in the NFL, includes Landry on a list of 10 veteran players that could be impacted by the draft -- a kind of way of mentioning players whose jobs could be in jeopardy.

Landry
Frankly, I think it would be a mistake to cut Landry. His 2014 salary isn't outrageous ($1.5 million) and, even though he's 31 and doesn't make a lot of big plays, he still has value because of his intangibles. He's the quarterback of the secondary, responsible for making pre-snap checks and getting the players lined up properly. Pryor might have a bright future, but he's certainly not ready to have that on his plate. Neither is third-year safety Antonio Allen, still learning the nuances of the position after playing a quasi-linebacker role in college.

Could you imagine a starting secondary of Pryor, Allen, second-year cornerback Dee Milliner and veteran corner Dimitri Patterson, who is new to the Rex Ryan system? There would be communication breakdowns galore. If they were to cut Landry, they'd have to sign someone with a strong grasp of the system. Ed Reed, you ask? Actually, Reed's free-safety skill set would pair nicely with Pryor, and he obviously knows Ryan's defense. But the future Hall of Famer will be 36 in September and the Jets have been there, done that.

It certainly sounds as if Allen will have a role on defense, if not a starting role. He's at his best in man-to-man coverage, relying on his athletic ability instead of sitting back in a zone and trying to read offenses.

"Antonio Allen is doing a tremendous job and I think he’ll be ready to do some interesting things for us this year," Ryan said after picking Pryor. "His big thing was the position change from what he did in college to the NFL. We knew that would take a little time, and I think actually he’s sped that process up a little faster than maybe anticipated. I really look forward to seeing what he does."

Jets pick Calvin Pryor in 1st

May, 8, 2014
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The pick: Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville

My take: The New York Jets made a good call by addressing the secondary with the 18th pick instead of reaching for a wide receiver, but you have to wonder if Pryor is the right guy for the Jets' scheme. They need a cover safety and a ballhawk who can play the deep middle. Pryor is better close to the line of scrimmage than in coverage. They opted for him over Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, whom scouts believe is a better cover safety. They also passed on Darqueze Dennard, thought to be the best man-to-man corner in the draft. Now they have three strong safeties -- Pryor, Dewan Landry and Antonio Allen -- and no free safety. Landry and Allen didn't make many plays last season, so anything is an upgrade. Pryor will bring a LaRon Landry-type presence to the defense, a physical player with an attitude. As one opposing scout said, "He's a hammer guy, a box-strong safety type." Pryor recorded only seven interceptions and only 14 pass break-ups in three seasons at Louisville. He's vicious tackler, forcing seven fumbles over the past two seasons. He ran 40 in 4.58 seconds at the combine.

Jets say 'No' to Johnny Football: Quarterback Johnny Manziel was still available for the Jets with the 18th pick, but he never was a serious consideration. They're invested in Geno Smith and they signed Michael Vick as a mentor/backup/possible starter. It would've been a stinging indictment of Smith if they had pulled the trigger on Johnny Football. It also would've been a three-quarterback circus. Manziel is risky because of his style of play, but he has special qualities. If he leads the moribund Cleveland Browns to a championship and the Jets remain also-rans under Smith, the second-guessers will have a field day for decades.

What's Next: The Jets don't pick again until the second round (49). Their primary needs remain the same: cornerback, wide receiver and tight end. Don't be surprised if they try to trade up in the second round, using their extra choices (seven tradeable picks) as bargaining chips.

Examining team needs: Safety

February, 14, 2014
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Rex Ryan needs to revamp his philosophy regarding the safety position. Instead of trying to get by on the cheap, it's time for the New York Jets to invest in the position.

In Ryan's system, the big money goes to the cornerbacks. The safeties are considered interchangeable parts. The Jets haven't drafted a safety in the first three rounds since 2006 (Eric Smith) and they haven't doled out big bucks since Kerry Rhodes (2008) -- both pre-Ryan moves. They splurged a little for LaRon Landry in 2012 ($3.5 million), but it was only a one-year contract. He made the Pro Bowl and they let him walk.

Allen
Landry
The safeties had an alarming lack of big plays last season. The ancient Ed Reed showed up in mid-November and he finished with more interceptions (three) than Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen combined (two). The defense allowed so many long pass plays that Ryan did something that pained him -- he used a two-deep alignment at times. He'd rather wear New England Patriots gear in public than play Cover 2 looks, but he felt he had no choice, especially with his cornerbacks also struggling.

Safeties are important. Just look at the Seattle Seahawks and what they've been able to do with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. It's time for the Jets to add a playmaker on the back end. Will they? No -- unless Ryan does a 180.

Projected offseason plan: With starters Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen under contract, along with backups Josh Bush and Jaiquawn Jarrett, the Jets are expected to stand pat. Their expectation is that Allen and the backups will continue to develop. Reed, 35, is an unrestricted free agent, but he doesn't figure in the immediate plans. He could be a fallback option if there's an injury down the line.

Free agency: If the Buffalo Bills are dumb enough to let Jairus Byrd hit the open market, the Jets should be all over him. He's exactly what they need, an instinctive ballhawk still in the prime of his career at age 27. He has 22 interceptions in five years and he's familiar with the Ryan system, having played in a similar scheme last season under former Jets coordinator Mike Pettine. Put Byrd in the deep middle of their Cover 1, and everything changes. He'll have a huge price tag (at least $8 million per year), but he'd be worth it. He also could get slapped with the franchise tag for the second straight year. T.J. Ward (Cleveland Browns) would be a terrific Plan B. He's only 27, a player on the rise, but you have to think the Browns, with a ton of cap room, won't let him get away. Then again, they're the Browns, so you never know.

Draft: It would be a major upset if the Jets take a safety in the first round, so forget about Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, whose stock is creeping up. A second-round possibility could be Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. But, like we said earlier, it's not Ryan's style to pick a safety this high.

Roster evaluation: Player rankings, 21 to 25

February, 4, 2014
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With the 2013 season in the books, it's time to turn our attention to 2014.

February is a critical month because it involves prep for free agency, the scouting combine and, ultimately, the draft. On Monday, the waiver period opened, meaning teams can start cutting players. Basically, this is when teams lay the groundwork for the upcoming season. As New York Jets general manager John Idzik explained, "There are a lot of sticks in the fire right now."

Idzik said the Jets have completed their roster evaluation. We did our own evaluation, ranking the players from 1 to 25, basing it on a variety of factors -- 2013 performance, positional value, salary-cap status and potential.

Our top 25, starting with the bottom five:

21. Mark Sanchez, quarterback, (cap charge: $13.1 million): He played poorly in 2012 and missed 2013 due to shoulder surgery, but Sanchez still has value because of his position and his résumé. He's 33-29 as a starter, plus four playoff wins. Because of supply-and-demand at quarterback, he can't be dismissed. Sanchez probably is done in New York, but he will have suitors.

22. Antonio Allen, safety, (cap charge: $570,000): The former seventh-round pick made terrific strides in his second season, especially in pass coverage. He was essentially a "Sam" linebacker in college, which required a major transition. Barring a significant acquisition, Allen is a likely starter. He must continue to improve his awareness in coverage, especially in zones.

23. Nick Folk, placekicker, (cap charge: Free agent): Folk withstood a training-camp challenge -- so what is new? -- and enjoyed a career year. His mechanics have improved considerably, although he still lacks an explosive leg on kickoffs. He's not an elite kicker, but he's certainly in the top five to 10. Folk wants a long-term deal. The Jets aren't known for paying their kickers, so it'll be interesting to see if they let him test the market.

24. Willie Colon, guard, (cap charge: Free agent): He did a credible job at right guard, replacing stalwart Brandon Moore. Colon led the team in penalties, but he did a solid job in the running game. He caught a bad break in the final game, tearing a biceps and requiring surgery. Obviously, that will hurt his bargaining position. He'll be a fallback option for the Jets, who hope William Campbell or Oday Aboushi can step into a starting role in Year 2.

25. Stephen Hill, wide receiver, (cap charge: $718,000): Hill makes the list because he's a former second-round pick, which carries value. But make no mistake, the scholarship is over. After two disappointing seasons, both of which ended with him on injured reserve, Hill's place on the team no longer is a guarantee.

Jets' D is good, but not near Seattle's best

February, 3, 2014
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Good news for the New York Jets: The Seattle Seahawks delivered an emphatic reminder that great defense still matters in the offensive-minded NFL.

Bad news for the Jets: Their defense, the foundation of the team, isn’t close to that of the Seahawks.

While the Jets have the potential to be dominant on the defensive line, they don’t have enough playmakers on the second and third levels to accomplish what the Seahawks did in Super Bowl XLVIII.

[+] EnlargeDemario Davis
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerDemario Davis is one of the young players the Jets can build around on defense.
They can stop the run with anyone, and they have the power rushers to generate a decent-to-occasionally-strong pass rush, but there are no proven difference-makers at linebacker or in the secondary -- not yet, anyway. The Jets produced only 15 takeaways last season, continuing a trend under Rex Ryan. For all their defensive success in recent years, they've created only 130 turnovers since 2009, 15th in the league.

It’s all about the turnovers, as the Seahawks proved Sunday night -- and all season, really. They rattled the great Peyton Manning with an incredible amount of speed and intensity, relying on personnel over scheme. Their game plan was simple, but brilliant. It was them saying, “No tricks necessary; our guys are better than your guys.” They recorded only one sack (an overrated statistic), but they forced Manning to move in the pocket and they bashed his receivers when they caught the ball. The defense finished with four turnovers and a touchdown, a great day’s work.

It’s also all about pass defense in the current NFL, so you need a stable of pass-rushers and “space” players in the back seven -- exceptional athletes who can drop, cover and make plays on the ball against offenses that spread the field. The Jets finished 22nd in pass defense. The Seahawks are built for speed; it’s always been the Pete Carroll philosophy. That’s why he doesn’t carry linebackers north of 250 pounds.

In contrast, Ryan built his front seven based on strength and power, the necessary attributes of a 3-4 scheme, although he has tweaked his philosophy to adapt to the new NFL. That was apparent in 2012, when he used a third-round pick on Demario Davis, a run-and-hit linebacker. In the not-so-old days, a linebacker like Davis -- 239 pounds -- wouldn’t have been a scheme fit.

Davis didn’t wow anyone in his first season as a starter, but he’s an ascending player, one of their building blocks. He and cornerback Dee Milliner -- the December Milliner, not the early Milliner -- have the athleticism to thrive in a fast-flow defense. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie can do it, too, as long as his troublesome hip isn’t an issue.

Unlike the Seahawks, who have the best safety tandem in the league, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the Jets are suspect at the position. Dawan Landry is a good quarterback, orchestrating the back end, but he doesn’t make plays. There’s a lot to like about Antonio Allen, who has improved considerably, but he’s still not a finished product. What does it say that graybeard Ed Reed, a midseason pickup, tied for the team lead with three interceptions?

Look, this isn’t a hatchet job on the Jets' defense. Clearly, they're better on defense than they were a year ago at this time. Their foundation is better than two-thirds of the teams, but they're still a few players away from Seattle's best. General manager John Idzik's first draft was solid, but he needs to find some of those fourth- and fifth-round gems, like his former colleagues have done in Seattle.

But, hey, it took the Seahawks four years to get to this point. Rome wasn't built in one offseason.

10 plays that shaped the season (No. 4)

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
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We're counting down the 10 most important plays of the New York Jets' season. After presenting numbers six through 10 in one post, we'll take it one at a time from five to one.

Allen
No. 4: Antonio Allen's pick six against Tom Brady

The second-year safety made the biggest defensive play of the season, a momentum-swinging interception that fueled the Jets' come-from-behind win against the New England Patriots in Week 7. Down 21-10 at halftime, seemingly headed toward another blowout loss to their No. 1 nemesis, Allen undercut a pass to Rob Gronkowski and returned the interception 23 yards for a touchdown.

"I don't think I had time to look at the quarterback," Allen said afterward. "I think the ball was already there. As soon as I turned, it was already in my hand. [I'm like], "Appreciate it." It was a good spark for the team, and we came out victorious."

Allen's big play occurred on the second play of the third quarter. After that, the Jets played arguably their best defense of the season, limiting Brady & Co. to two field goals over the next two-plus quarters. The Jets won in overtime, 30-27, one of their signature victories in 2013.

Jets' Antonio Allen stars on special teams

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It started with the long snapper.

In their preparation leading up to Sunday's game, the Jets noticed that Oakland long snapper Jon Condo didn't perform proper drops after his snaps. The Jets believed they could capitalize on this and worked all week on exploiting that tendency.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Allen
AP Photo/Kathy WillensAntonio Allen blocked his second punt of the season.
In the second quarter Sunday, that preparation resulted in Antonio Allen getting a free path to Oakland punter Marquette King. Allen knew a game-changing play was about to happen.

"We about to make money off this," Allen thought.

Allen blocked the punt and recovered it in the end zone to help the Jets to their 37-27 win over the Raiders on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It marked Allen's second blocked punt of the season (his first was on Oct. 7 against the Falcons).

"It feels good to make a play on special teams. I've been trying to get out there and make whatever happens with my playing time," he said. "It's big for me and big for the team, and we got the victory."

Oakland has been susceptible to blocked punts in MetLife Stadium this season as they also had one blocked and returned for a score when they visited the Giants on Nov. 10. The Giants too said they saw something in Oakland's formations they believed they could take advantage of.

According to Allen, the Jets swung cornerback Ellis Lankster in front of Condo, and Allen shot the A-gap to get his free shot, knocking the ball down toward the Oakland end zone. He tried to pick it up, but Allen couldn't corral it and just fell on top of it in the end zone. Allen's touchdown marked his second of the season, and he's the first Jets' defensive back with multiple touchdowns since 2010.

"It felt weird, they just let me loose" Allen said. "I was surprised I thought the tackle was going to give me some kind of push but he didn't touch me, he just let me go right through. It was big for us."

As Allen made the big play on special teams, he also was more involved in the defensive game plan after three straight games of sparse playing time. Since the arrival of Ed Reed, Allen, who has shown promise in his sophomore campaign, has seen a reduction in his playing time to the point that he barely plays.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said he had made a mistake not playing Allen more and he aimed to remedy that Sunday. Allen played just 24 snaps in the previous three games, and he was in that neighborhood of snaps against the Raiders. He played extensively in the first half.

Allen, who believes he was having a "productive" season before Reed arrived, was down on himself after the game for not making an interception during Oakland's final drive.

"That's a play I got to make," Allen said. "With the defensive plays I do get I got to maximize my play time and make something happen."

Halftime Report: Jets up 20-3

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets, up 20-3 at halftime, managed more first-half offense than they've had in a month with an offensive touchdown, a defensive touchdown and two field goals against the visiting Oakland Raiders.

The last time the Jets scored this many points in a first half was Week 9 against the Saints.

That’s not to say it’s been pretty. Jets quarterback Geno Smith has benefitted from the return of WR Jeremy Kerley, who scored with 3:17 left in the first quarter with a 25-yard reception, while the Raiders struggled to figure out who they were going to use at quarterback.

Best defense is offense: Ed Reed had an interception in the second half to give the Jets the ball at Oakland’s 4 yard line, and the Jets had to settle for a field goal after Santonio Holmes dropped a third-down pass in the end zone. Jets safety Antonio Allen blocked a punt for a touchdown with 3:55 left in the second quarter, giving the Jets a 20-3 lead.

Back after this: The Raiders had their top three running backs on the inactive list. That meant they used FB Marcel Reece to run the ball, and substituted quarterback Matt McGloin with backup Terrelle Pryor, who ran a few option plays en route to a field goal before getting swapped back out for McGloin after an interception.

More time for Kerley: The Jets offense has been led by Kerley, with 3 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown, and TE Kellen Winslow Jr. and Holmes, who both have 45 yards on 2 catches at the half. All three are playing more snaps than they have in recent weeks, with Winslow in on 10 plays, Holmes on 21 and Kerley in on 14. There may be more time to go around since Stephen Hill was declared inactive before the game.

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