Moves Improve the Jets Defense

With the recent winter blast that we have experienced, it seems like football weather doesn’t want to leave us. It almost seemed appropriate that the Jets had to call off a press conference on Monday introducing one of their newest members because of the large amount of snow that fell throughout the area.

Inside linebacker Bart Scott did get a chance to experience the New York media for the first time as a member of the Jets, but it was through a conference call. Once the team named Rex Ryan as head coach, it was merely a matter of time before some of his former underlings made their way to the Meadowlands.

The former defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens made it a point to not only let Scott know that he wanted him, but did so in person by showing up at the doorstep of his house. “I thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world,” said Scott. “I am happy that they (Ryan and assistant Dennis Thurman) did not get off the curb and get bit by my dog.

“It was very refreshing,” he added. “It really showed me they were serious about getting me and they weren’t letting me go anywhere (else).”

The house call aside, the six-year, $48 million deal Scott received may have had something to do with him leaving Baltimore. But he may turn out to be worth every penny. Known as the “Madbacker” because “he hates the guys in the other colored jerseys,” according to Ryan, Scott will have only reached his 29th birthday by the time the season rolls around and has accumulated some pretty impressive stats.

In his last four years as a Raven, he has played in 109 games and had 489 tackles, 16 sacks, three interceptions, 22 passes defended, four forced fumbles and two recoveries. Some may say that he benefited from the system and his mates in the linebacking corps, which included Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. But it is hard to argue with success, which he has had enough of to make Ryan want him to be the cornerstone of the team’s defense.

“It’s extremely flattering,” said Scott. “I look at it as a blessing. I look at it as a new challenge to be able to take it to the next level and to be able to try to put my imprint in on the defense and play with a bunch of great players. To be able to move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat is very flattering and it comes with a great sense of responsibility and I am ready to take on the challenge.”

Once Scott was in the fold, general manager Mike Tannenbaum solidified the secondary by working out a trade and another free agent signing. First, he acquired cornerback Lito Sheppard from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fifth round pick in the upcoming draft and a conditional pick in the 2010 draft, believed to be either a third or fourth round selection.

Next, safety Jim Leonhard signed a reported three-year deal and will join his former teammate Scott. The ex-Raven is said to be a favorite of Ryan’s and will give the Jets two elite safeties with Kerry Rhodes. The two corners will be able to cover any receiver set in the league, with Sheppard and incumbent Darrelle Revis, who earned his first Pro Bowl last season.

Ironically, the Jets were in the beginnings of negotiations with the Eagles about acquiring Sheppard before talks broke down. They finally got the seven-year veteran, who is coming off his lowest productive season since his rookie year. In 2008, Sheppard totaled only 21 tackles (his career high was 56 in 2004) and only one interception. Earlier in his career, he returned both kickoffs and punts.

Leonhard is entering his fifth season in the league and played his first three up in Buffalo. Last year, the 5’8″, 186-pound Wisconsin product totaled 69 tackles, had one sack and returned his only pick of the season 35 yards for a score.

The Jets have addressed a few weaknesses on their defense. Now let’s see what they do with the offense.

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