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New York Jets 2014 Training Camp Preview: 5 Questions on defense

Can Richardson and the Jets become a Top 5 unit?
Can Richardson and the Jets become a Top 5 unit?
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The end of the offseason is finally upon us as the New York Jets report for training camp on July 23rd. The early outlook for Gang Green is encouraging as the team added several playmakers to a group that went 8-8 in 2013. Will the Jets be able to make a run at a playoff spot in 2014? The team will have to answer several questions on the field before that question can be entertained.

Is Milliner ready to be the #1?

The departure of veteran defensive back Antonio Cromartie puts the spotlight on Dee Milliner as the team's best cover cornerback. The second year player from Alabama finished the 2013 season on a high note ( including locking down Pro-Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon) which has raised expectations for Milliner in 2014. Will Dee continue to improve as he faces increasing pressure from both the head coach and the fan base? How much patience will Rex Ryan have with his young corner as he faces some of the best wide receivers in the NFL?

Patterson a good fit for Rex's defense?

Heading into training camp the New York Jets are expecting Dimitri Patterson to play opposite Dee Milliner in the secondary. Patterson, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, has played at a quality level in the past but was hindered by injuries the last couple of years. Will Dimitri remain healthy and flourish in Rex Ryan’s defense? If Patterson struggles, will rookie Dexter McDougle or Darrin Walls be able to take his starting spot?

Breakout year for Coples?

Entering his third season outside linebacker Quinton Coples appears ready to breakout in Rex Ryan’s defense. Coples ended the 2013 campaign with 3.5 sacks in his 5 last games and started to become a legitimate presence rushing from the edge. Will Quinton, who shed approximately 15 pounds this offseason, become the pass rushing threat Ryan has been desperately searching for?

A new starting safety duo?

It is no secret that Rex Ryan would love to have a starting safety tandem of Antonio Allen and Calvin Pryor. The pairing of Allen and Pryor would give Ryan a physical, athletic, ball hawking duo that could establish themselves as a presence in the secondary. The question is whether or not these two young playmakers can play consistently enough to become starters. If either of the young safeties struggle they will more than likely be replaced by veteran Dawan Landry.

Enough depth at the linebacker position?

The New York Jets linebacking group is led by veterans David Harris and Calvin Pace. Emerging backer Demario Davis plays alongside Harris while Antwan Barnes and Quinton Coples platoon outside with Pace.

The biggest question with this group could be durability as Barnes is returning from a serious leg injury while Harris (30) and Pace (33) are starting to get up in years. Nick Bellore and Garrett McIntyre are the primary backup players for this unit with rookie Jeremiah George competing for reps.

Top 5 defense?

On paper the Jets defense, spearheaded by their ferocious defensive line, has the potential to be a top 5 unit in the NFL. The key for the Jets will be the play of their young secondary as Rex Ryan will be looking for huge years out of Antonio Allen, Calvin Pryor, and Dee Milliner. If the defensive backfield can play consistent in coverage then Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pace, and Quinton Coples should have a field day chasing down the quarterback.