Friday, December 3, 2010
Jets lose integral defender Jim Leonhard
By Tim Graham
On a team full of superstars, the importance of New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard often gets overlooked.
The difference will be noticeable when Leonhard's not on the field.
Leonhard suffered what head coach Rex Ryan called a "severe" shin injury. Ryan assumed it was broken when Leonhard ran into receiver Patrick Turner during a drill at Friday's practice. Multiple outlets have reported Leonhard's injury is season-ending.
The loss will be felt in many ways. Leonhard makes the secondary calls. He leads all Jets defensive backs and is third overall on the team with 66 tackles. He has one interception, six passes defensed, a tackle for loss, three quarterback hits and a fumble recovery.
Eric Smith likely will join the other usual safety, Brodney Pool, in the lineup Monday night against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
Leonhard also is the Jets' top punt returner. He's averaging 11.3 yards, which ranks fourth among players with at least 20 returns.
Rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson is the only other Jet to have returned a punt this year (7.4-yard average), but he has fallen out of favor. Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff announced receiver Jerricho Cotchery, coming back from a groin injury, will field punts.