Whatever John Idzik, Rex Ryan and the Jets do on the defensive side of the ball the rest of free agency and in the draft, they must address one thing by opening day:
Fix their takeaway machine. Last year it was broke.
I spoke with Calvin Pace back when he signed his new contract about the defense's turnovers — we had a tame 13 interceptions, tied for 22nd in the NFL and stuck in the single digits until rookie CB Dee Milliner led the late-December eruption, and a horrific two recoveries of opponents' fumbles all year — how that can be addressed this year.
"I think it's just wanting to start on the practice field, be more opportunistic just doing it, and then just carrying it over onto field," Pace said. "Look at teams like the Seattles and New Englands. They're pretty good at takeaways, and I'm pretty sure they practice it and harp on it. Taking the ball away is a big momentum shift."
This is the final summary of the fumble numbers that we visited a few times during last season: Our two fumble recoveries were easily the fewest in a season in franchise history and the fewest by an NFL team since 1970. So therefore the one defensive recovery — Leger Douzable's snag of Muhammad Wilkerson's strip-sack of Matt Ryan at Atlanta (shown in the video above) — would also be among the fewest.
As for no fumble takeaways in the last 11 games of the season, that shattered the previous mark of seven straight games set in Games 3-9 of the 1967 season.
Calvin Pace suggested that perhaps last year's D was a little on the young side by means of explanation but not excuse, and besides, he added: "That's over with."
And Pace, who's been adept at separating opponent from ball over the years, added that considering the state of the rest of the defense's subunits, an improvement in this area (coupled, of course, with a decrease in the offense's giveaways) could do wonders in 2014.
"We just need to take the next step and get the full complement as far as our game goes," he said. "We're good against the run, we've gotten better against the pass. Now we just need to get better in takeaways, and get our offense better field position to give them a jumpstart at times."
Here's the list of the bottom five fumble takeaway teams since the NFL-AFL merger: