On the Active Roster in 2015
S Dion Bailey, CB Antonio Cromartie, S Marcus Gilchrist, S Ronald Martin, CB Dexter McDougle, S Rontez Miles, CB Dee Milliner, S Calvin Pryor, CB Darrelle Revis, CB Buster Skrine, CB Darrin Walls, CB Marcus Williams, S Antonio Allen (IR), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (IR)
Potential Free Agents
S Antonio Allen, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, CB Darrin Walls
GM Mike Maccagnan was asked in November about the Jets defense heading into the second half of the season and specifically the secondary. "I think we've played well," he said. "There are games we haven't been as successful, but for the most part I've been happy with what we've done on the defensive side of the ball. I know we were very active over there in terms of how we addressed that side of the ball. For the most part, yes, I'm happy with it going forward."
He should be happy as well now that the 2015 train is in the station. The DBs had ups and downs, but basically the offseason reconstruction in the secondary turned out quite successfully.
One measure of that is in takeaways. The defense's 18 interceptions were just one fewer than the 19 they had in 2013-14 combined. And the 24 defensive takeaways by corners and safeties are the most in a Jets regular season since the 1992 secondary racked up 26 TAs.
As for yardage, the Jets were slightly better than break-even in the NFL in yards allowed/game (13th) and per play (15th). But the Green & White were better in some more granular categories — 7th in yards allowed/attempt (6.72), sixth in opponents' passer rating (79.0 and No. 1 in opponents' passing accuracy (57.1%).
Not every opposing WR disappeared in this renewal of Revis Island, but Darrelle Revis still provided plenty of rocky shoals after two years away from the Jets. "I think I am way smarter, way more intelligent at the game and at the position," he said after re-signing in March. "I think now I'm a different type of player, a better player than I was before." Perhaps the best gauge of that was in the footballs that still came his way — he had five interceptions, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and nine takeaways, tied for second.
Antonio Cromartie reteamed with Revis as the starting corners after just one year away in Arizona. He had a midseason slump, no INTs, and fought through hip, knee and quad injuries, but was durable as always with 15 starts and 898 defensive plays (second-most in the secondary). And his 13 pass breakups led the DBs.
Who had the most plays? That would be free agent S Marcus Gilchrist, who put together a steady, professional first season in green with three interceptions, a secondary-leading 94 tackles, 1,048 plays — most on the defense — and zero days on the injury report.
S Calvin Pryor played more up to his 2014 first-round draft status. Even while missing three games to injury, he charted 71 tackles, more than a few of the chin-strap-snapping kind, and had his first two pro picks, at Indy and Dallas.
UFA Buster Skrine did a little bit of everything but mostly from the slot in leading the DBs in tackles for loss/no gain (6.0) and QB hits (3). CB Marcus Williams came up big with a team-high six INTs, including the win-sealing theft at Dallas. Darren Walls and Dexter McDougle stepped up when needed, McDougle in the slot vs. Washington and Walls with 105 defensive snaps when Revis was out for the late wins over the Dolphins and Giants.
Speaking of the Giants, the backup safety that stood tall against Big Blue was Rontez Miles, whose red zone theft of Eli Manning, his first pro pick, started the Green & White's big Game 12 comeback. Also contributing in the deep middle: Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dion Bailey and Ronald Martin (limited to ST).
With Allen (all season on IR), Jarrett and Walls the only potential UFAs, most of this group will return, including one player we didn't mention above in Dee Milliner. Milliner, the first-round pick in 2013, was snake-bit with his Achilles rehab followed by short-term IR for his wrist injury and then illness, ankle and hamstring issues the last seven weeks. He wound up with 47 plays for the year, all on special teams.
Todd Bowles laid out the game plan for Milliner going forward: "He has to get healthy, he has to stay healthy, he has to be ready to play." If all that happens, the head coach said, "He'll compete" for a starting job.
Next Season's Home and Away Foes Are Set; Dates and Times Will Be Revealed in April
Bowles also said of Revis, "We're glad to have him," and of Cromartie, "I'd like to see him return." Being an old Super Bowl safety as a player, he knows what he likes and what he needs. And what he has for 2016 is a sturdy year-old foundation in his and DC Kacy Rodgers' scheme.
Two new names on the roster in advance of free agency and the draft: CB Kevin Short, who had stops with the Chiefs and Seahawks and was a NJCAA All-America first-teamer with a school-record 10 INTs for Fort Scott CC, and Jersey guy Kendall James, the sixth-round pick of the Vikings in 2014.