There was much change on the Green & White depth chart this offseason and preseason. But one thing the Jets and their followers knew, despite John Idzik's "competition through and through" mantra, was that there was probably going to be a Cro at right cornerback and a Landry at safety.
Tonight, Antonio Cromartie and Dawan Landry lead the secondary into the Jets' preseason opener for around a quarter of play against the Detroit Lions' formidable passing machine and will provide fans with a more concrete idea of what pass defense after Darrelle Revis will look like.
Cromartie vs. Calvin Johnson will be one of the main attractions of these teams' first meeting since 2010 and first preseason meeting since '05. Lions QB Matt Stafford has averaged 5,000 passing yards the past two seasons and many of those completions went to Johnson, who last season had 122 receptions and broke Jerry Rice's single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards.
"Let's see ... you've got Megatron vs. the Megacorner," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You've got a freak at wideout and a freak at corner, so that's going to be fun to watch.''
Cromartie is more focused on himself, not worrying about this matchup or on going forward without his fellow corner, Revis.
"Even if he was still here, it wouldn't differ," Cromartie said of his role. "My thing is just to be the leader I can be and be vocal with the young guys and make sure they understand what we are trying to do on the back end. You know, just try to be more consistent in what I'm doing and also for the other guys to be more consistent also."
Cro thinks the defense's consistency is moving forward, in part because of that always crucial relationship between front end and back end.
"I think honestly we're coming together pretty well," he said. "When you add our front seven, the physicality of what our front seven is doing, I think we're probably going to have one of the best front sevens. We added a guy, Sheldon Richardson, who's coming out here and playing tremendously. So you got a dominant guy in Muhammad [Wilkerson] and also in Quinton [Coples]. So you just look forward to that and hopefully we can get to the quarterback and make him throw bad throws."
New Landry in the Deep Middle
Besides Megacorner in the Jets secondary, there's also Mentor. That's one of the names teammates have bestowed on Landry, who came in from Baltimore, where he played in Ryan's and Dennis Thurman's system, following his younger brother, LaRon, who played for the Jets for a year before moving on to Indianapolis.
"Everything's a work in progress," Dawan said. "With the scheme I played with Rex and DT in Baltimore, I have some knowledge of the system. I'm just making sure I'm getting on the same page with the guys, communicating, talking about things before they happen, just playing fast."
His new teammates say that's being accomplished.
"I feel like Dawan knows what the offense is going to do before they even know what they're going to do," CB Ellis Lankster said. "He'll say, 'Ellis, he's going to run that double post,' and then they run that double post, because he's so good at recognizing formations."
Dawan Landry is not the same player LaRon is, but the two are brothers, after all, and Dawan said he talked to LaRon about coming to the Jets before the start of last year's unrestricted free agency period.
"Rex is definitely a players' coach, and I knew I had a lot of success in Baltimore and I knew he'd do the same with the Jets," Dawan said. "He wasn't really reluctant, but I just wanted to see him have some fun like I had. He came up here and he loved it. Everything else worked out for the best."
Another major attraction for Jets fans will be the play of veteran QB Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith. Ryan has said that Sanchez will start, then Smith will play a little bit with the first offense, then get the rest of his snaps with the twos. ... Quinton Coples, now listed as an OLB although he'll still put his hand in the dirt, had 4.5 sacks last preseason. ... The Jets secondary will have two other new starters besides Landry. Top pick Dee Milliner is expected to start at LCB in the base defense, while at the other S spot, it could be Kyle Wilson or Antonio Allen. The Jets will be trying to snap a five-game preseason losing skid, which includes last year's 0-4 mark. ... The Jets and Lions have split 16 games all-time — they're 6-6 in the regular season, 2-2 in preseason. ... The Jets are 2-0 in Ford Field with RS wins in '02 and '10. ... The first time the then-American Football League Jets played an NFL team was in the '68 preseason, when they defeated the Lions, 9-6, in the first game of a doubleheader at Cleveland Stadium.