A Jets defense that weeks ago was talked about among the best in the league has fallen on hard times. The decline has coincided with the signing of veteran safety Ed Reed on Nov. 14, a move that was supposed to solidify the Jets backend.
The Jets allowed 331 passing yards last Sunday in a 23-3 loss to the Dolphins — a season-high for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The week before in a loss at the Ravens, the secondary gave up passing plays of 66 yards (which Reed was culpable on) and 60 yards, again with the unit getting exposed over the top. In Week 11, rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel had a career-best 71.4 completion percentage in the Bills’ blowout win of the Jets.
“Defensively, whether I placed too much of an emphasis on not having the ball thrown over our head — obviously that was a point of emphasis — but we’ve got to challenge more,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We’ve got to challenge more on the outside, that’s a given. We didn’t tackle well. There are things that we need to get better at.”
A season ago, the Jets had the second-best pass defense in the league.
The Jets are currently No. 25 in the league in stopping the pass, giving up 256.8 yards per game. They have conceded 12 plays of greater than 40 yards and 22 passing touchdowns. Both numbers are among the worst in the league, despite having a pass rush among the best in the league.
A lot of the blame, whether right or wrong, will fall on the safety signed three weeks ago to take a young secondary to the next level. They’ve gone from mediocre to bad in that stretch.
Reed blew his assignment two weeks ago in Baltimore on that 66-yard touchdown and this past Sunday he flailed badly in trying to tackle Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline. His mobility is down but even as he was hailed by the Jets three weeks ago as a great influence on the secondary, it is clear that he is a shell of his former self on the field.
He is playing a very high number of snaps, far more than he was getting with the Texans. Two weeks ago at the Ravens, Reed was in for 97 percent of all snaps. The young player he replaced, Antonio Allen, played just 21 snaps. Allen’s snap count was the second-lowest for any player in the secondary.
Ryan on Monday said Reed will start Sunday against the Raiders. He also said Allen, a second-year safety who had a pick-six in the Week 7 win over the Patriots, would get more snaps.
“We have to do a better job of playing him,” Ryan said. “I have to do a better job of putting him in there.”
There’s also another issue at play and that is the subpar performances of Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner at cornerback. Cromartie has a hip injury that has held him back, but he consistently gave a cushion to Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace on Sunday. It was a decision that allowed their quick passing scheme to get rolling.
Milliner has struggled with his physical play and consistently gets beat to the inside. The rookie first-round pick was benched in the second half of the loss to the Dolphins. Both the play of Cromartie and the inconsistent displays by Milliner were problems earlier this season and continues to be an issue even after Reed’s arrival.
Unlike rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who was named the starter on Monday despite his own benching last game, Ryan would not confirm Milliner will start this week.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.