New York Jets: Ed Reed

Doing the safety dance with Pryor & Co.

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
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.

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.

Cutting Landry would be a mistake

May, 12, 2014
May 12
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, 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.

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."

Free-agency primer: Jets

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7

» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: RT Austin Howard, PK Nick Folk (franchise player), TE Jeff Cumberland, LB Calvin Pace, RG Willie Colon, S Ed Reed.

Where they stand: The Jets are trying to re-sign Howard before he hits the open market. He's not a household name, but he's a massive blocker with surprising athleticism. Howard has two years of starting experience and he's only getting better. They've expressed an interest in re-signing Cumberland and Pace, although it's unclear if deals will get done by Tuesday. Pace produced a career-high 10 sacks last season, playing for the minimum salary, but he's 33 -- and the Jets won't throw significant money at a player that old. The Jets are rebuilding at tight end, so Cumberland's role is undefined, which could affect negotiations. Colon and Reed are fallback options. In Reed's case, way, way back. Colon is recovering from biceps surgery and won't be healthy until the spring.

What to expect: With an anticipated $30 million in cap space, the Jets could be aggressive buyers if they so choose. They need a wide receiver (or two), a tight end and a veteran quarterback to push Geno Smith. There aren't any true No. 1 receivers on the market, so they'd better be careful not to overpay for the second-rate talent. Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate could be on the radar. They're likely to have interest in QBs Josh McCown and Michael Vick, who'd be ideal because he already knows Marty Mornhinweg's system from their days together in Philadelphia. If they strike out with free agents, the Jets could retain former starter Mark Sanchez, contingent on his health and a massive pay cut. The Jets could have 12 draft choices (counting possible compensatory picks), so they don't have to overpay to fix every need in free agency.

Time for Jets to prepare a Byrd cage

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
The New York Jets haven't doled out a lucrative, multi-year contract for a safety since Kerry Rhodes signed a five-year, $33.5 million deal in 2008 -- a contract then-coach Eric Mangini, speaking to a friend years later, called one of his biggest regrets. But that's besides the point; the message here is that since 2009, in Rex Ryan's cornerback-centric system, the organization hasn't paid premium prices at the safety position.

It should take a hard look at changing the philosophy now that Jairus Byrd appears headed for the open market.

The Buffalo Bills declined to use the franchise tag on Byrd (the deadline was 4 p.m. Monday), meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent March 11. That's assuming he doesn't re-sign with the Bills, which appears highly unlikely.

Byrd will demand serious coin -- he reportedly rejected a deal that would have paid him $30 million for the first three years -- but he's so good that the Jets should investigate. Byrd is a younger version of Ed Reed, sans the dynamic return ability. He's a ball hawk with uncanny instincts, a presence in the deep middle. The Jets like to play a lot of single-high safety looks, and Byrd would be a terrific scheme fit. Their problems against the deep ball would disappear with him patrolling center field.

Obviously, the Jets are doing something right on defense (five straight years in the top 11), but they've done so with a glaring lack of production at safety. Since 2009, the Jets' safeties have combined for only 16 interceptions. (We're not including six by Dwight Lowery, a safety/cornerback hybrid who played mostly in sub packages.) Since 2009, when Byrd entered the league as a second-round pick, the soon-to-be-former Bills star has 22 interceptions. By the way, that includes six against the Jets.

So will the Jets pursue Byrd? My gut tells me no. It sounds like they will entrust the position again to Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen & Co., perhaps adding a player in the draft. Clearly, they have bigger needs on offense, but they have enough salary-cap room to plug those needs and make a big splurge on defense. Maybe a look at the list below will change their mind.

Safety interceptions since 2009:

Ed Reed, Eric Smith, Kerry Rhodes -- 3 apiece
LaRon Landry, Jim Leonhard -- 2 apiece
Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Brodney Pool -- 1 apiece

Examining team needs: Safety

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
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.

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.

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

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
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.

NFLN survey/respected player: Jets

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
Our NFL Nation network of team reporters polled 320 players across the league -- 10 from each team -- to produce a confidential survey that covered eight probing questions/hot topics. Next up ...

Question: Which player do you respect the most?

Winner: Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos.

Our take: Manning was a landslide winner with 86 votes (26.8 percent), accumulating more than three times the number of votes as the second-place finishers, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (24 each). The Manning-Brady dynamic is interesting. Brady has three Super Bowl rings to Manning's one, yet it's clear which quarterback is more popular among his peers. It makes for interesting discussion fodder, especially with a Manning-Brady showdown in the AFC Championship Game.

I can tell you this: Manning received the most votes (three) among the 10 Jets players who participated in the survey. Two players voted for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Five other players, including Peterson, received one vote apiece.

Only two Jets received votes from their peers around the league: safety Ed Reed (five) and linebacker David Harris (one). Obviously, Reed drew attention for his stellar years with the Baltimore Ravens, not his seven-game, hired-gun gig with the Jets. Players weren't allowed to vote for teammates. A total of 78 players received votes in this category.

Reed wants to play another year -- probably

December, 30, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Ed Reed didn't rule out retirement, but he gave every indication Monday that he'd like to play another season. He'd like it to be with the New York Jets.

"I know I'm going to be ready to play football next year," Reed said.

The future Hall-of-Fame safety, who underwent hip surgery last April while a free agent, said he expects to be better in 2014 after having a full offseason to rest and rehab his hip. He was scheduled for an MRI exam on Monday, which he termed as "total maintenance."

Reed, who played seven games with the Jets after being released by the Houston Texans, received heavy criticism for his play. Frankly, he looked old and too slow for an every-down role. In recent weeks, his playing time was reduced and he came more productive, finishing with three interceptions -- tied for the team lead.

Not shy at firing back at critics, Reed scoffed when asked if New York saw the "real" Reed this season.

"The real Ed Reed?" he asked, increduously. "I'm in my 12th year, I know how to play this game. I've played this game a certain way for a long time. The real Ed Reed was here. My expectations for myself are higher than y'all could ever be. The standard has been set high, but like I said, I said that standard."

Rex Ryan's affinity for Reed is well-documented, but it's hard to imagine them re-signing him. He will be 36 next season, and they have reliable veteran Dawan Landry, part-time starter Antonio Allen and other young safeties.

"I came close to retiring three, four years ago, so there's always that possibility," he said. "That's something I've always evaluated after every season since my first year. It's a violent sport. The sport is changing a lot and organizations are changing. It's just a different game."

Ed Reed had something left in the tank

December, 29, 2013
MIAMI -- There are streaks of gray in his hair these days, and, at age 35, his best days are behind him.

But safety Ed Reed, playing in his alma mater's home stadium, proved again on Sunday that his reputation as a playmaker is well deserved. He helped the New York Jets keep the Miami Dolphins out of the playoffs with a 20-7 win at Sun Life Stadium.

In the third quarter, with the Jets clinging to a 14-7 lead, the former University of Miami star made a shoestring tackle on Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews at New York’s 33 after a gain of 21 yards. That saved a touchdown. Three plays later, Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner grabbed an interception, adding more value to Reed’s tackle.

“I was just happy to get [Matthews] down,” Reed said. “I had his shin in my hand and just raised it up.”

With 4:12 left in the game and the Jets leading 17-7, Reed came up big again. Deflections have never been safe around Reed, and this carom off the hands of Dolphins receiver Marlon Moore was no different.

Reed grabbed the high bounce for his third interception as a Jet and returned it 17 yards. It was his 64th career interception.

“It’s always a good feeling to get a victory and an interception, [especially] the way the defense performed today,” Reed said.

Reed said he was pleased Rex Ryan will be returning as the Jets' coach next season.

“It’s well deserved,” Reed said. “[The coaching staff has] put in a lot of work. I’ve sat in on meetings and had conversations at night at 9:30 or 10 o’clock. Just the work they put in to have us prepared is awesome.”

Reed, who responded “Oh, yeah,” when asked if he would like to return next season, has taken a leadership role in mentoring Milliner.

“We sit next to each other in meetings,” Reed said. “I have seen a lot of football. To be teaching a guy, helping a guy, it helps you to grow as a person and as a player.

“It’s more hats off to him to take what I give him and understand how to be a professional.”

Milliner noted Reed’s vast experience and seemed grateful to learn from a player destined for the Hall of Fame.

“A lot of advice, man,” Milliner said when asked about his relationship with Reed. “He sees me at every meeting, comes by, talks to me, sits beside me. He keeps coaching me up.”

Practice report: Missing Reed

December, 26, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jets safety Ed Reed was not present at the open portion of practice Thursday. This could be a maintenance day -- the team has given him days off during the week.

The Jets were also without tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), who receives days off to help manage the pain in his knee. Winslow did not work earlier in the week. He has yet to miss a game because of injury.

Cornerback Ellis Lankster (jaw) was participating in positional drills, sometimes with his helmet on and other times without it. Lankster didn't play against Cleveland and didn't practice earlier this week.

Green Day: Film review of Sunday's win

December, 24, 2013
One last look back at the New York Jets' 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns:

Geno Smith delivered his best performance in two months -- easily. What impressed me the most was the poise he demonstrated on third down. As expected, the Browns came after him, rushing five or more on eight of his 12 dropbacks. They sent a couple of corner blitzes, probably going to school on the Jets-Panthers tape from the previous week. But Smith, afforded terrific pass protection, was unflappable.

He completed 9 of 12 passes on third down, including three conversions on third-and-10 or greater. To me, Smith's best play came on a third-and-12 to Jeremy Kerley. It came against a Cover 2 look, with Kerley beating linebacker D'Qwell Jackson into the soft middle for 22 yards. It was significant because, in a similar situation four weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins, Smith was intercepted by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe on a throw to the slot receiver.

Progress? Yes, but keep in mind the Browns were ranked 27th in third-down defense.

Other takeaways from the game:

1. The Marty Bunch: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg did a nice job of using bunch formations to create separation for the receivers. A good example was Smith's 6-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson. They had three tight ends on the field -- unusual for third-and-6 -- with Nelson lined up in a bunch to the right. He got a free release and ran a post route through bracket coverage. Smith anticipated Nelson's break, winding up before Nelson turned for the ball -- just like you draw it up. Later, Nelson had a 15-yard reception out of another bunch formation.

2. Welcome back, wideouts: This may have been the best game for the wide-receiving corps, which produced 11 catches, 123 yards and two touchdowns. It had better numbers against the Cincinnati Bengals (15 for 130), but that was a blowout loss. The Browns used a lot of "off" coverage, playing into the Jets' hands. Everybody knows you have to play aggressive press coverage against the Jets' wideouts.

3. Tone's time almost up: It was a disappointing day for Santonio Holmes, who had as many drops (two) as receptions. On the positive side, he did a nice job of shielding cornerback Buster Skrine in the end zone on Smith's 17-yard touchdown scramble. Curiously, Holmes didn't partake in the celebration. Smith was mobbed by seven teammates, but Holmes, nearby, didn't join in, looking like he was sulking.

4. Reed responds in backup role: Safety Ed Reed, replaced by Antonio Allen in the base defense, played his best game as a Jet. In fact, the much-maligned safety group allowed only one completion in five targets, recorded an interception (Reed) and broke up two passes -- a solid performance. Then again, what do we writers know about football, right, Ed?

5. Flawless protection: Kudos to the offensive line -- no sacks, no quarterback hits. I've been critical of rookie left guard Brian Winters, but this was one of his better games. He had a key block on Bilal Powell's 39-yard run.

6. Defensive hiccup: The Jets were gashed on Edwin Baker's 5-yard touchdown run. It happened with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (shoulder) temporarily out of the game. His replacement, Leger Douzable, was double-teamed. Outside linebacker Quinton Coples fell victim to a trap block, creating a crease for Baker. Afterward, Rex Ryan took responsibility, saying he should've used the goal-line defense instead of the base.

7. Not so special: Special-teams mistakes have cost the Jets 10 points in the last two games. There was the blocked punt in Carolina, and the failed fake punt against the Browns. Josh Bush, a safety, took the direct snap and uncorked a Tebow-esque pass into the ground, missing a wide-open Isaiah Trufant. They will say it should've worked because he was open, but I didn't see the point in resorting to trickeration against a hapless team like the Browns. The Jets also allowed a 50-yard kickoff return at a critical point in the game, but it was a treat to see Saalim Hakim turn on the jets and track down Fozzy Whittaker. Dude can fly.

Rapid Reaction: New York Jets

December, 22, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Jets (7-8) still have a chance to finish .500, which would be a nice accomplishment for a team predicted to be a laughingstock. They got off to a slow start against the Browns (4-11), committing sloppy mistakes, but they developed nice balance on offense. The Jets finished 6-2 at home. Hey, it's something. The Browns dropped their sixth in a row.

Stock watch: This might have been Rex Ryan's final home game. After three straight seasons out of the playoffs, Ryan could be fired at the end of the season. He referenced his uncertain status Saturday night in a team meeting, according to a Fox Sports report. He probably did it for motivational purposes. If owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik are leaning toward making a change, the decision could get tougher with a strong finish.

Geno delivers -- finally: Quarterback Geno Smith (20-for-36, 214 yards) played his best game since Week 5, throwing two touchdowns to David Nelson, running for one and -- get this -- managing to avoid a turnover for only the third time. For a change, Smith validated the praise his coaches have lavished upon him, providing a glimmer of hope for the future. Recognizing single coverage, he called an audible on his 6-yard scoring pass to Nelson, a heady play by the rookie. Smith was money on third down and did a nice job of finding his checkdown options. He got a boost from Chris Ivory, who rushed for 109 yards.

Better late than never: Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner played his best game, by far, recording his first interception and holding the dangerous Josh Gordon to six catches for 97 yards on 16 targets. It helped that Gordon dropped three passes, including two in the end zone. But give Milliner credit. The first-round pick showed closing speed and made plays on the ball, continuing to show improvement in the latter stage of the season. Interestingly, Milliner -- not Antonio Cromartie -- was assigned to Gordon on every play. That never would've happened if Cromartie were playing well.

Pine time for Reed: It's not often that a future Hall of Famer is benched, but that's what happened to safety Ed Reed, who was replaced in the base defense by Antonio Allen. Reed, who played 84 percent of the defensive snaps in his first five games, was limited to the sub package on passing downs. (He did make an interception near the end of the game.) This is how he should've been used from the outset, not as an every-down player. Ryan is a Reed apologist, but give him credit for making this move, albeit too late.

What's ahead: The Jets close the season in the spoiler role, facing the Miami Dolphins on the road.

W2W4: Browns vs. Jets

December, 20, 2013
Rex Ryan will coach his 40th -- and possibly last -- regular-season game Sunday at the Meadowlands.

There have been many indelible memories, good and bad: Three victories over the New England Patriots. The playoff clincher over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. The dramatic comeback against the Houston Texans in '10. The Sal Alosi game. The emotional 9/11 opener against the Dallas Cowboys in '11. Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown. The Butt Fumble. If you want to include a preseason moment, it has to be the Snoopy Bowl debacle with Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury.

Chances are, Sunday's home finale against the Cleveland Browns won't make the list. It's a meaningless game for two teams that are a combined 1-9 since Week 10. Incentive? The Jets want to win their final two games, avoiding a second consecutive losing season. Could a strong finish save Ryan's job? It's possible, although decisions of this magnitude usually aren't based on a game or two.

"We definitely want to win this for him," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said of Ryan.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. What to watch for:

1. Two more rides on the Geno-coaster: There's nothing Geno Smith can do in the final two games to dramatically alter the landscape of the quarterback position -- it would be too little, too late -- but a couple of feel-good performances wouldn't hurt, that's for sure. Smith has made minor strides the last couple of games, but he hasn't delivered a "wow" game since Week 5 in Atlanta. The Browns are no pushover (ranked No. 8 in total defense), but they're known for late-game chokes. They've blown three straight fourth-quarter leads, losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. In fact, they've allowed six touchdowns and three field goals in their last nine possessions in the fourth quarter.

2. A swoon for the "Sons": Muhammad Wilkerson and Richardson -- two-thirds of the "Sons of Anarchy" defensive line -- are mired in a sack slump. They've both gone three straight games without a sack. In fact, Richardson has as many rushing touchdowns (one) as sacks over the last nine games. He's had a terrific season, but he could use one last push to boost his chances of winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples have been carrying the pass rush. Coples, coming on strong after a slow start, has quietly notched three sacks in the last three games.

3. Covering Josh Gordon: This should be interesting. The Browns' wide receiver, leading the NFL with 1,467 receiving yards, is a matchup nightmare for the Jets. Gordon is dangerous with the ball in his hands -- 597 yards-after-catch, fourth in the league -- and we all know the Jets' secondary has experienced tackling issues. Presumably, the Jets will put Antonio Cromartie on Gordon, a chance for Cromartie to save some face after a disappointing season. They also figure to give him over-the-top help from Ed Reed. Maybe Reed and Cromartie can avoid colliding into each other. Gordon has the ability to singlehandedly wreck the game for the Jets.

4. New faces on D: With the playoffs out of reach, the Jets will try to take a look at some young players for evaluation purposes. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman mentioned that he'd like to see more of safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush. Unless they're planning to use a three-safety package, it could mean some bench time for Reed, who probably would find a way to blame the media. On offense, you could see more of wide receiver Saalim Hakim, whose speed is intriguing. The coaching staff can talk about playing the kids, but in reality, the Jets have been riding with them all season.

Ed Reed slams critics, admits rough season

December, 20, 2013
Ed ReedAP Photo/Ben LiebenbergEd Reed isn't exactly thrilled with the media these days.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Ed Reed slammed critics who argue he hasn’t played as well this year as in the past, saying anyone who watched the tapes would realize he isn't responsible for the Jets' losses.

“This is football, man,” said the Jets safety. “We in this locker room been playing football for a long time. Nobody’s perfect out here on the football field. You guys’ job is to critique, be critics; that’s what you do. That’s why you ask the controversial question, try to make it controversial. Then you trash people in the media. I could care less about that. Missed tackles happen.”

The 35-year-old defensive back said he’s seen some of the stories that say he is slower, that he can’t make the plays he once did.

“Even reading you guys' blogs, reading your comments, knowing half [of you] don’t know as much about football as you think, unless you come in the film room,” Reed said. “Don’t even know the schematic part, you can ask the question, but that don’t mean you’re an expert at what we do.

"It’s funny to me, reading it. Smile at it, laugh at it. But that’s your job. Some of your jobs you take it and tear people down, try to tear the team down. [You don’t] understand that it’s a team, and you’d rather point the finger at one individual.“

Reed is defensive as the curtain closes over a long, challenging season. After offseason hip surgery, Reed left his longtime home in Baltimore and signed a three-year, $15 million deal with a Houston team on which he never seemed to get traction.

“Been a long year, definitely not what I expected,” Reed said. “Expectations were high, regardless of surgery. You leave a great organization thinking that you’re going somewhere else to build something, thinking they had something, turns out different.”

Reed said he came to New York with a bag, two pairs of jeans and a shirt and reunited with coach Rex Ryan, his former defensive coordinator. But he didn’t change the narrative, continuing to struggle with the Jets after starting immediately.

“Ed is a prideful guy,” Ryan said, “and he’s probably never faced criticism in his life because of the player he is.”

Ryan said Reed is the player in the locker room that he expected to get and that he mentors younger players as well. But in terms of production, like tackles and picks? “Nah, not yet.”

“He’s not the Ed Reed of 10 years ago, but I’m happy we have him,” Ryan said. “Ed’s still pretty darn good, and he’s helped this football team more than just maybe what you see on the field.”

Reed, who is on a one-year deal in New York, said he would like to remain a Jet next season but said that would probably change if embattled coach Ryan isn’t with the team.

“Probably,” Reed said, “because it’s his scheme that stays. I don’t see why he shouldn’t be [here]. Great coach.”

Ryan clearly has his player's back as well. He explained that he sees the media as having a job to do, just like the players and coaches, but that it can be hard for players not to bristle when they see negative stories.

“This is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player,” Ryan said. “There’s some negative criticism. What do you expect? Twenty-five-year-old or 26-year-old Ed Reed back there? Well that’s not it, but this is still a good football player. Is he as good as he once was? No, but that list is really short.”

Reed doesn’t have the job security he enjoyed when he was at the top of Everest, as Ryan put it.

“Always been around free agents and wondered how they did it,” Reed said. “Definitely commend those guys for going through it because it’s challenging.”

Reed’s security expires in two weeks.

Film Review: Jets get skunked by Panthers

December, 17, 2013
One last look back at the New York Jets' 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

I heard this expression a long time ago (I think it came from Bill Parcells), and it applies to one element of the game: How many times do you need to get hit in the face with a skunk before you realize it stinks?

The Jets got hit with a cornerback blitz on their sixth play from scrimmage, but they did little to stop it -- so the Panthers used it over and over. The Panthers aren't known for exotic blitzes, but they kept sending Captain Munnerlyn off the corner. Why not?

[+] EnlargeCaptain Munnerlyn and Geno Smith
Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCTCaptain Munnerlyn and the Panthers used cornerback blitzes to get at Jets QB Geno Smith.
On the Panthers' first sack, Munnerlyn was unblocked on a front-side blitz and tackled Geno Smith. On their third sack, Munnerlyn came on a back-side blitz. Running back Bilal Powell picked him up, but it allowed linebacker Luke Kuechly to loop around left tackle -- unblocked -- for the sack out of a six-man rush. On the fourth sack, Munnerlyn came from the back side again. The Jets emptied the backfield, so there was no one to block him.

If Munnerlyn had a few more chances, he might have finished with three or four sacks. It wasn't a well-coordinated effort by the Jets, but a lot of those problems can be attributed to Smith's inexperience. He simply needs to do a better job of recognizing pressure and finding his hot reads.

The Panthers sent extra pressure twice as often as they usually do, surprising the Jets. Against five or more rushers, Smith was only 6-for-12, plus four sacks. He averaged only 2.9 yards per dropback, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Panthers did a nice job with their game plan, attacking a Jets weakness.

Other takeaways:

1. Another Geno hiccup: Smith, explaining his interception, admitted he should've checked down to another receiver instead of forcing the ball into a tight window to Santonio Holmes. The tape reveals that Smith had three wide-open check-down options --Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and Powell. This was another example of poor field vision by the rookie. He also got caught up in the moment. The Panthers had just converted a blocked punt into a touchdown, and Smith wanted to reclaim the momentum by taking a risk on third down. Sometimes the quarterback has to know when to fold and wait for the next hand. Instead, he turned Munnerlyn into a hero. It was Smith's fifth pick-six of the season, tying Joe Namath for the team's single-season mark.

2. Bad Geno, good Geno: Earlier, Smith provided a glimpse of good and bad on back-to-back plays. Throwing on the run, he misfired badly on a deep ball to a wide-open Saalim Hakim, sailing a pass about 4 yards out of bounds -- a blown opportunity. On the next play, Smith did a great job of moving in the pocket against a five-man rush, throwing a strike to Cumberland for a 35-yard gain. Such is life with a rookie quarterback.

3. The nightmare screen: This was on linebacker David Harris. The Jets were in man-to-man coverage and Harris got caught peeking into the backfield, biting on Cam Newton's fake screen to the left. That drew him out of position just enough to allow DeAngelo Williams to catch the screen-right and get around the corner. Incredibly, he turned a routine play into a 72-yard touchdown. Safety Ed Reed also fell for the fake and arrived late, taking a bad angle. Cornerback Dee Milliner, who strikes me as a finesse tackler, couldn't get off the block of receiver Brandon LaFell. Milliner looked like he wanted to slow-dance with LaFell.

4. Another cold Winters: Left guard Brian Winters might be a good player some day, but he's having a nightmare of a rookie season. He surrendered one sack, allowed a pressure that contributed to another sack and committed a costly holding penalty in the fourth quarter. Vladimir Ducasse is John Hannah compared to this.

5. Odds and ends: Rex Ryan took the blame on Mike Tolbert's 1-yard touchdown run. Anticipating a run up the middle, he used what he called a "sell-the-farm" defense. He used six linemen, including four between the inside shoulders of the two offensive tackles. That left a gap on the outside shoulder of the two tackles. The Panthers ran directly into that gap on the left side. Quinton Coples slanted in and was buried. Linebacker DeMario Davis was blocked by a pulling guard, allowing Tolbert to walk into the end zone. ... The Jets' blitz didn't bother Newton at all. Against five or more rushers, he was 7-for-10, averaging 11.9 yards per dropback. He was sacked only once. ... Cornerback Darrin Walls played only one defensive snap and missed a key tackle.