When we sat down with Mike Tannenbaum in Indianapolis, I asked the Jets’ GM if Rex Ryan twisted his arm at all in order to get more defensive players on the roster.
“It’s been about 30 seconds since we‘ve added a corner. I expect a change there momentarily,” said a smiling Mr. T during a break at the team hotel. “Rex is great. We have a philosophy that we’re going to get the best player we can.”
Some will make the argument that LSU CB Patrick Peterson is the top overall prospect in the 2011 draft. Imagine the scene if Peterson is still available when the Jets come to the clock with their 30th overall selection. Ryan would probably get out the keys to his truck and tell Tannenbaum to put Peterson’s hometown — Pompano Beach, Fla. — into the GPS. The Jets’ third-year head coach probably wouldn’t mind giving the 6’0”, 219-pounder a hand with some moving boxes.
On the surface, it appears this Bayou Bengal doesn’t have a weakness.
“My ball skills, toughness, I can support the run,” Peterson said when asked about his strengths from a podium at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I’m an all-around cornerback and that’s what I wanted to do when I went to college and I definitely want to continue that trend going into the NFL.”
Peterson (remember we just said he weighs 219 pounds) posted two sub-4.4 times in the 40 Tuesday as the combine workouts in Indianapolis reached a conclusion. Even though he wanted a 4.2, the 4.32 and 4.37 times will work for all NFL scouts. Petersen, who captured both the Thorpe (top defensive back) and Bednarik (top defender) awards last season, had four interceptions and also ranked fourth in the nation with a 16.1-yard punt return average and ninth nationally with a 29.1-yard kickoff return average.
While Peterson might be the king of the corners, Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara also performed well in the 40 with a 4.43. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year had 13 PDs as the ‘Huskers finished fifth in pass defense. Colorado CB Jimmy Smith will escape most of the headlines, but he’s an intriguing prospect as well who excels in press man coverage.
Even though Ryan loves his corners, the Jets may be in a favorable position to address their front seven come draft weekend.
“It doesn’t take a super scout to figure out we’ve got some pretty good defensive linemen in this year’s class,” ESPN’s Todd McShay told newyorkjets.com. “Right now I have eight defensive ends with first-round grades, and it could be nine if Cameron Heyward of Ohio State didn’t have the Tommy John surgery. It just moves him over to early second round. I’ve got another four defensive tackles with first-round grades, so you’re talking about 13, 14 defensive linemen that have a chance to come off the board in the first round.”
The Green & White officially released two front-seven players this week as both NT Kris Jenkins and OLB Jason Taylor were set free. Taylor accounted for five of the team’s 40 sacks during regular-season action.
“They need a front-seven player who can rush the passer and not have to rely on their scheme as much,” said NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi. “Those 40 sacks were really a reflection of their scheme and their ability to pressure the quarterback by their design, not necessarily by their talent.”
As far as outside linebackers are concerned, Texas A&M’s Von Miller leads the way. After tallying 17 sacks as a junior, Miller fought off an ankle injury and amassed 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles behind the line as a senior. Missouri product Aldon Smith played only two seasons for the Tigers but racked up 17 sacks along the way. Unless they move up in the first round, the Jets (who currently don’t own a second-round selection) might have to be patient on that first night of the draft
“I think you’re going to see guys like Robert Quinn from UNC way off the board. Akeem Ayers [out of UCLA] will come off the board earlier than that,” McShay said. “But a player like Justin Houston out of Georgia, who’s a good talent but not quite as explosive and who doesn’t have the elite bend around the edge like a guy Quinn brings to the table, I could see him possibly falling to the late round.”
There are a number of linemen who could fit well in the Jets’ 3-4 base look.
“I do think there’s some depth there this year, and I do think the fact that more college teams are running the 34 defense will help the process as far as guys we’re looking at because we’re a 34 team,” said Joe Clinkscales, the Jets’ VP of college scouting.
“The other thing, too,” added McShay, “is you can never have enough good defensive linemen, so even though they’re inside guys in the 3-4, bringing in a player, one of these defensive ends has to fall. We have three guys who played the 5-technique that belong in the first round — J.J. Watt, Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple and Cameron Jordan out of California. You have those three guys and one of them may fall, so there is an opportunity there. And maybe you move up a few spots if the right guy is there to not only take on blocks but also can get pressure on the quarterback.”
Wilkerson, a big-time basketball recruit out of high school, had 9.5 sacks, 70 tackles and two forced fumbles in 2010. Jordan’s stock continues to rise after a 16.5-sack career at Cal. And Watt, an early entry, had 36.5 tackles for losses and 11.5 sacks in just two seasons at Wisconsin.
Even though Ryan loves corners, the Jets will stick to the philosophy of drafting the best player available. If a prospect can “Play Like a Jet,” meaning he is passionate about the game and plays hard, then the coaching staff will always find a way to use more talent.
“The strength of our system is its flexibility,” said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “If a guy is a football player and he makes plays and is productive, we can find a home for him.”
Tags: Cameron Heyward, Joey Clinkscales, Mike Tannenbaum, Patrick Peterson, Rex Ryan, Todd McShay
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