When the New York Jets fired head coach Rex Ryan and hired former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles following last season, it seemed like the front office was fixing a problem with another problem.
Sure, Bowles turned the Cardinals into one of the NFL’s best defenses during his tenure there, but Ryan has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best defensive minds in the game. New York didn’t just have problems on defense, — they had offensive deficiencies, too. While Bowles seemed like a good option to pick from the pool of potential candidates, the Jets had problems with their offensive system and personnel: things you don’t expect a defensive-minded coach to cure.
Then again, the Jets went 4-10 in 2014 and hadn’t finished the regular season over .500 since they went to the playoffs under Ryan in 2010. Similarly, the offense was in the league’s bottom five teams for a third consecutive year and Ryan’s impenetrable defense wasn’t so impenetrable: it ranked 24th actually. Regardless of who New York’s front office brought in to take over the floundering ship that Ryan left behind, there was one thing that remained clear—New York needed a new man.
What wasn’t clear, though, was how this new coach would do. The Jets weren’t a winning team when Bowles took over, and they weren’t projected to be one either this season. Despite being just two games into this young season — and of course we have to emphasize that this season is still in its infancy — the Jets have the look of a modern-day Steel Curtain.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Jets’ defense has singlehandedly led the Jets to their 2-0 start. In two weeks, New York’s giving up an average of 8.5 points per game and currently ranks first in points allowed. While Bowles has certainly done a terrific job in just a few months, it helps that the front office opened up the checkbook this offseason and brought back Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis to anchor the secondary. But it wasn’t just the big names like Revis and Cromartie—New York also signed other role players that gave the defense much-needed depth.
Any way you spin it, the numbers don’t lie: the Jets currently have the league’s best defense. No, that doesn’t mean they’ll remain at the top, but it’s definitely evidence to the notion that they could (and maybe should) end up as one of, if not the best, defenses in the league. And the why is simple: it’s the perfect fit between the personnel and the system.
Of course, and the front office gave Bowles money to spend on his team, and having the financial freedom to sign players like Revis makes “picking” your players a little bit easier. But, the results haven’t failed to disappoint. Bowles hand picked the players he wanted, his defensive schemes worked in Arizona, and having implemented something very similar in New York, similar success seems close. There’s no better example of that than the dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts last week. New York severely rattled one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, and in doing so, forced five turnovers; three of which were interceptions.
And more so, the team’s 10 total forced turnovers in two games by far tops the league. Five turnovers per game probably isn’t a reasonable expectation for the remainder of the season, but this defense is just that good. They’re built for success; ask Bowles, it’s his creation. And unlike previous seasons where a big defensive weaknesses was the offense (it’s tough to maintain success when you’re always on the field), quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and co. have generated a decent offensive attack thus far. So, love the Jets or hate the Jets as the season progresses, but at least respect the defense: after two weeks, they deserve it.