When the subject of the Jets defensive backfield rises, you automatically think about the gifted cornerback tandem on the outside. But while Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie still might be the headliners, the Green & White are excited about the talent they've added at safety.
"Obviously it's a work in progress. We have a different system than most teams in the National Football League in we ask our safeties to do a lot," DB Coach Dennis Thurman told me. "We have versatile safeties now — not that Jim Leonhard wasn't. He's just a smaller guy. We have bigger, more athletic safeties than we've had in the past and we have to take advantage of them. Right now, it's a work in progress because they're still learning the defenses and the little nuances that go along with it."
Asked to play primarily in the box for the Dolphins, Yeremiah Bell has proven to be even more versatile than the Jets originally anticipated.
"Obviously Tony Sparano is here and he signed off on him big-time. If he had still had coached at Miami, he told me they were going to use him more at free safety now to take some of the wear and tear off of him because of his age and where he is in his career," Thurman said. "We were surprised at how much range he has and the ball skills he has. He's still a very athletic guy even though he's 34 years old."
Just like Bell, LaRon Landry landed with the Jets in free agency. The 6'0", 220-pounder is a physical presence who loves to throw his body around, but Landry has a complete game.
"I think one of the things that is underrated about him or what people really don't know is the range he has," Thurman said. "He's very fast and he's very explosive. He can play the ball in the air. He has good ball skills and he can cover man-to-man. So with the guys that we have now, we believe that the things that we're going to ask them to do — they're going to be very effective doing it."
We covered a number of topics with Thurman and you can watch that 1-on-1 on the site tonight. And here's a fun fact for you from the Jets Media Guide – Under the tutelage of DT, Jets DBs have held their opponents to an NFL low 68.7 passer rating, 52.2 completion percentage, 47 TD passes, 6.22 yards per pass attempt and 8,885 passing yards since 2009.