The Jets defense will be expected to improve this year.
With new head coach Robert Saleh’s productive tenure as a defensive coordinator in San Francisco, New York’s front office is counting on his success to translate to his new home.
Various reinforcements, acquired both through free agency and the draft, including defensive lineman Carl Lawson and Sheldon Rankins and linebacker Jarrad Davis, have the unit primed for a strong year. However, with Saleh transitioning to the head coaching role, the Jets defensive coordinator will be an important cog in the machine.
That responsibility has been handed to Jeff Ulbrich.
Ulbrich began his NFL coaching career in 2010 after a nine-year playing career as a linebacker with the 49ers, most recently serving as defensive coordinator in Atlanta. He inherits a defense that ranked 26th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed last season. There are promising signs already, though.
In a press conference last week, Ulbrich asserted that there was “growth across the board” during the Jets offseason program.
“I would be hard-pressed to acknowledge one guy or another, it was a collective thing," Ulbrich said. "I thought that the group was just extraordinarily hungry for learning and growth in every way, technique, scheme, knowledge of the game.”
This drive that Ulbrich pointed out was apparent even among late arrivals like Marcus Maye.
The 44-year-old expressed genuine excitement to see the Jets' new safety pairing, which will feature Maye playing alongside new signee LaMarcus Joyner. Both have unique skill sets which will complement each other well, Ulbrich points out.
Joyner has lots of experience as a nickelback, which gives him the ability to play in one-on-one coverage as a safety, a key element of Saleh’s scheme.
“I think that’s gonna be huge for us, if you go back and you watch the 49ers defenses, what really unlocked that defense was their ability to cover receivers with Jimmie Ward,” said Ulbrich.
Ward has been the 49ers free safety during the recent stint of defensive success. While Joyner can play in coverage, Maye is extremely versatile. He can make plays on the ball, has strength to operate in the box, and the speed to play in the middle of the field.
In addition to being intrigued about the safety partnership, Ulbrich raved about free-agent signing Carl Lawson’s recent performance on the practice field. Despite being away from the team, it was clear to Ulbrich that Lawson had spent some time studying the new scheme when he arrived at the practice facility.
“Our front is unique and a little different in the way that we attack and the stances and the whole thing, you can see this is not the first time he’s done it. He was able to get out there today with us, and the offense was having a hard time blocking him. So he’s gonna be a huge addition for us,” said Ulbrich.
It is clear that the San Jose native certainly has high hopes for his defense in all areas of the field. Although there are some question marks on the back end, if their new DC’s enthusiasm is any indication, Gang Green fans have much to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball.
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