Last Season in Review
Despite their early struggles in the back end, the Jets finished No. 17 in pass defense last season. The defensive backfield was bolstered by the play of a pair of young cornerbacks, a waiver claim from a division rival, and a fourth-round pick in last April's NFL Draft.
Second-year player Darryl Roberts, whom the Jets claimed off waivers from the Patriots on Sept. 4, tied for the team lead with eight PDs. Roberts appeared in 12 games and started in two of them.
Rookie Juston Burris, who saw action primarily on special teams early, lined up on 74.3% of defensive snaps between Weeks 14-16. The NC State product finished with one interception and was tied for third with six PDs. His six special teams stops ranked third on the team.
After parting ways with Antonio Cromartie in the offseason, the Jets turned to veteran Buster Skrine to fill the void across from Darrelle Revis. In sub packages, Skrine would move inside and Marcus Williams would shift outside. Both Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor returned at safety with Rontez Miles providing depth behind.
The Jets were victimized by the big play in Weeks 1-6, allowing five completions on attempts of 40 or more yards for 339 yards and 4 TDs, all league lows. But then over their next five games, the Jets defense allowed a single completion of 53 yards, no TDs and 1 INT on attempts of 40 or more yards. And after allowing opposition QBs to post a 114.7 passer rating in Week 1-6, which ranked No. 31 in the NFL, the Jets limited signal callers to a 73.8 rating in Weeks 7-12, which placed then No. 3 in the league.
Williams and Marcus Gilchrist tied for the team lead with two interceptions as the club was tied for 29th in the NFL with eight thefts.
"It's frustrating because we've got to get takeaways," said head coach Todd Bowles in late November. "That's the biggest difference between this year and last year, defensively. Not many takeaways."
Future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis didn't meet his own high expectations, finishing with an interception and 5 PDs.
"He had some ups. He had some downs," Bowles said. "I think some of you guys saw some glaring things that showed up and what I saw was some little things show up on film. But he played well in spurts and, at times, he didn't."
Best Images of the Jets Defensive Backs During the 2016 Season
Revis told reporters that he did have conversations with Bowles about possibly moving to safety next season.
"We talked about it briefly, but there's a lot of pros and cons that go with that and we'll continue to discuss that," Bowles said. "I'll talk to his position coaches. I'll talk to the coordinator and I'll talk upstairs and obviously, I'll talk to Darrelle about it… I have to make sure he understands what I'm looking for from a safety position if we decide to do anything like that, and I have to make sure that he understands where he is and what he wants to do."
The 6'0", 212-pound Burris, a well-built DB who could thrive in press coverage, should challenge for more time immediately in Year 2.
"Juston Burris played very well at the end of the season and showed a lot of potential," said general manager Mike Maccagnan. "He's a big, physical corner that fits Todd's defense well."
The secondary could have a familiar personnel in 2017 as the only scheduled free agents are S Antonio Allen (UFA) and CB Marcus Williams (RFA), but the unit has a new sheriff in DB coach Dennard Wilson.
Wilson spent the past five seasons with the Rams and served as their DB coach from 2015-2016. Los Angeles finished No. 10 in pass defense in 2016, yielding 233.2 yards per game. The Rams were effective limiting home-run plays, finishing T5 in both 20-plus and 40-plus completions (41 and 6 respectively).