Topic: Jim Leonhard done for the year. Again.

FLORHAM PARK–When Jim Leonhard arrived in training camp back in August, he had almost no physical restrictions. Amazing considering that eight months earlier he had broken his right leg in practice so badly that it required surgery and he used a scooter and crutches to get around for weeks following that.

However, from the moment Leonhard hit the playing field, he showed no signs that he’d ever even been hurt and all questions about it disappeared.

On Sunday, it all came back. After getting tackled awkwardly following his interception, Leonhard didn’t get up and ultimately left the game on a cart. He’s been diagnosed with a torn pateller tendon in his right knee and is done for the season.

Rex Ryan said that going forward the starters will be Brodney Pool and Eric Smith. He also said it is probable that the team will try to sign a veteran safety to add some depth. The way the Jets run their secondary, they have many options, so don’t be surprised if they also move some people around to compensate. Donald Strickland for one, can work in a variety of roles.

Ryan has known Leonhard a long time and the two are very close and we know how Ryan feels about his DBs in general.

“You feel absolutely terrible for him,” Ryan said. “His leadership is going to be missed without question. He’s one of the guys who just elevates other players around him. Everybody respects Jim. But I know Jim and I think he’ll get the surgery…and I’m sure he’ll be around the building and be around us.”

Leonhard was at the team’s training facility this morning. Both Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie said on separate conference calls that they ran into him in the training room. “He’s in good spirits right now,” Cromartie said. “He’s just waiting for the swelling to go down so he can get ready for surgery.”

Cromartie and Wilson both expressed confidence that although Leonhard is certainly a huge loss, the secondary and the team can move forward without him.  ”Everyone knows everyone on the back end,” Cromartie said. “This group has been together for two years.”

Nick Mangold showed that he’s 100% with several of his blocks on Sunday. He also dismissed questions that he might not have been able to perform the same way a month ago after returning from his high ankle sprain. According to Mangold, he wouldn’t have returned if he had to be limited in any way.

Mangold said the mood around the team’s practice facility is “mixed” because of the injury to Leonhard combined with the win, but as Ryan likes to point out there is a “100% injury rate” in the NFL.

In the meantime, the mantra continues to be “focus on the next game only.” The next game of course is against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets have never won in Philadelphia. Right now, the Jets control their own destiny – they are currently in position to claim the final AFC Wild Card spot.

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
-Joe Theismann

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Re: Jim Leonhard done for the year. Again.

Rex Ryan just told the press today the news that everyone already knows – that Jim Leonhard is done for the year – let’s talk some about what this means for now, and for the future.

Pool is the Starter – Since his competition is Tracy Wilson, it’s not that big of a surprise, so Pool will come into the unit and will take over more of the “free safety” role.   Smitty will likely call the plays, while Pool ranges in the secondary.  What this does of course mean is that the Jets won’t have that nickel safety play – basically at all – the rest of the season … which is a shame, it seemed to work well for the Jets.

NEWSFLASH: Safeties Are An Issue — Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have had a lot on their plate, but one of the areas that they’ve had trouble properly addressing has been the safety spot from a coverage perspective.  With lockdown corners on the edges, this year has further proven that teams know where to try and attack the Jets … the safety spot in the passing game.  Credit Rex & Pettine for scheming things to try and downplay the issue, but it’s the one real area of serious concern and teams will look to drive that home as the regular season comes to a close and the playoffs (fingers crossed) begin.  So losing a front line safety is never a good thing – and if Leonhard is in fact injured for the year, then Tracy Wilson (he who was just promoted from the practice squad a few weeks ago) is the team’s only current backup behind Smith & Pool.  They are going to have to do something about it from a roster standpoint.

Can They Move a Corner? — The Jets love versatile corners who can play up at the line, or floating back as a safety … it’s an essential part of their defensive guile. So if the Jets are hurting so bad at the safety spot, it would make sense that they would send someone across from the cornerback unit. From a size perspective, Cromartie would be best suited, but I don’t think the Jets would be willing to send Cromartie to such duties during the whole game.  From a physical play perspective, someone like Wilson or Cole might make sense.  The Jets are going to have to do something, and while finding a free agent might be appealing, the thing that makes more sense is to take someone who’s already familiar with the defense and put them into a larger role.

Iron Man — Could Joe McKnight start to see some more time on defense from here on out?  He’s played there in some spots during the season, but look to see if the Jets don’t try and use him there more the rest of the way in some very specific packages.

Dwight Lowery Factor — I was going to write about Dwight Lowery a few weeks ago when the Jets showed some early in-game coverage struggles against the Bills and then again against the Redskins … but I thought better of it. I thought it was me just being mean-spirited and over critical. Now? I look back at that and think it was on the mark.  I get why the Jets traded Dwight Lowery, but I also get why last year he was a perfect substitute safety for the Jets once Leonhard went down for the year.  I don’t think the Jets have someone else on the roster who was in such a perfect situation to jump in … this is something the Jets are going to have to scheme around the rest of the way.

By Their Own Hand — The other thing that bears marking is that the Jets just kicked Emmanuel Cook to the curb – for what appeared to be some bogus reasoning.  While Cook might not have been the next Ed Reed, he at least knew the system … PAGING KEITH FITZHUGH!!!

Looking Ahead — Football is a cruel sport, and it brings me no joy in saying it, but you have to wonder if Leonhard has suited up for the last time in Green & White.  Jim Leonhard has now had two season ending injuries in two years.  This past offseason, the Jets cut Kris Jenkins.  This year, Leonhard’s contract is up and he’ll be a free agent.  Will they bring him back?  Even if they do, will it be as a starter?  What else do the Jets have?  Eric Smith is signed (hooray?) while Brodney Pool will be a free agent again.  Neither are the team’s long term answers at the spot.  The Jets defense puts a lot of pressure on the safeties to play flawlessly because it’s one of the best release valves when a team like the Jets can stifle an opponent’s running game as well as take away the outside receivers.  The Jets are going to have to take a serious scour of the free agency market (there’s not a lot of great options) and the draft class (isn’t stacked at the top) to find some viable, longer term solutions.  Maybe the Jets bring back Leonhard as a veteran player-coach type … but his starting days might be over.

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
-Joe Theismann

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