*This is the second in a series of stories reviewing Jets' 2007 season and previewing 2008, position by position.
*When you think Jets secondary, the two names that come to mind are Rhodes and Revis or Revis and Rhodes. The Green & White last season got 16 starts out of each of their superstars in the making, veteran safety Kerry Rhodes and rookie corner Darrelle Revis. The other two backfield positions were marked by transition as names filtered in and out of the lineup.
"We were a very young group. There were a lot of things going on and people were playing different roles," Revis told newyorkjets.com today. "We just stuck together as a group and did the best we could."
Following a lengthy stay away from the beginning of training camp, Revis showed why the Jets moved up in last year's draft to grab the Pitt product with the 14th overall selection. The 5'11", 204-pounder started all 16 games, finishing second on the team in both interceptions (3) and tackles (87).
Despite being named to the NFL All-Rookie team by the Professional Football Writers of America and Pro Football Weekly, Revis thinks he should have made even more of an impact.
"There were a lot of takeaways to be had that I could have made plays on them. It was just confidence, not focusing on the ball right there in my hand. I have to make those plays," he said. "This year I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder to make those plays because I know I can."
Rhodes, a grizzled vet at just 25, was the DBs' pilot and was named third alternate to the Pro Bowl after collecting a team-high five picks and two sacks. But the rangy playmaker was overlooked nationally because of the Jets' 4-12 record.
"Kerry is a playmaker — he's the man back there. He's the one everyone ask questions and he makes sure everyone is on the same page. We have a great relationship with each other," Revis said. "We can just do head nods to each other and we're on the same page. It's good for us to have that kind of communication, but we want everybody to be on the same vibe."
Throughout the season, Revis and S Abram Elam (who didn't sign with the Jets until mid-September but ended up starting eight of the final 13 games) would visit Rhodes' home for nightly video sessions.
"It brought us closer together. This year we'll try to get more guys," Revis said. "We're not going to pressure people if they don't come, but we want them to come. The biggest thing everybody wants is a ring on their finger after the season. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot of things and do a lot of stuff for you to be that type of team."
While Revis was situated at LCB and moved to the slot when warranted, the right side was usually filled by David Barrett or Hank Poteat. Both were credited with nine starts and the 30-year-old Poteat notched his first two career interceptions. The Jets actually finished ninth in the NFL in pass defense, yielding 197.1 yards per game.
"They're both good players. You usually want somebody to solidify that spot, but they both did a good job," Revis said of Barrett and Poteat. "I stepped up my leadership last year. I know they were veterans, but you do what you have to do for us to be a positive secondary. They're part of that ninth in the league, so they're part of that as well. They made plays and they did some things."
The revolving door also spun around Rhodes as well. The club had high hopes for Eric Smith but then a hamstring slowed him in camp. Erik Coleman, a regular in each of his first three seasons, got hurt in a Week 4 contest against Buffalo and never reclaimed his job. Smith moved into the lineup against the Giants, tallying a career-high eight tackles, but then was involved in a 75-yard Donovan McNabb-to-Kevin Curtis touchdown pass play against the Eagles and the Jets went to Elam a week later in Cincinnati.
Once the free agency/trading period began Feb. 29, the Jets chose to address their defensive front seven with the additions of a big NT in Kris Jenkins and a speed rusher in OLB Calvin Pace. The hope is the league's 29th-ranked rush defense will improve and teams will be forced into passing mode. With less time to throw, quarterbacks may have to release the ball quicker and takeaways could be more plentiful.
"I actually talked to Coach Mangini and Mr. Tannenbaum on the phone and I just thanked them. I said thanks for basically going after these guys and getting them," Revis said. "They were excited to bring these guys in and it's looking very positive right now. And I said, 'Well, let's go.' "
We know R&R are set, but there are a number of questions to be answered in '08. With "E.Coles" now winging it with the Falcons, does Eric Smith challenge the hard-hitting Elam and become a safety staple? And at corner, Andre Dyson was released and Poteat is currently an unrestricted free agent. Will Barrett claim that all-important second spot? Does Drew Coleman challenge for more time?
The name you must not forget in all of this is Justin Miller. He was having a tremendous training camp when a hammy tightened up in the Green & White game and then his knee sent him to the IR after Week 2. When healthy, Miller's a burner and a physical presence. He figures to make a play for that second corner as well and he could also provide a nice fit in the slot, possibly saving Revis from jumping inside on third downs.
The Jets also could add a corner at some point in the draft. They scored with Revis and he's excited to move forward.
"This is my family — everybody in this building, this organization. I care about everybody in here," he said. "When you hear people talking about the Jets, it hurts when you go 4-12. It's a new year now. Last year's over. It's time to move on and be very positive this year, go to the playoffs and further."