New York Jets news, commentary and insider info from beat writer Kimberley A. Martin.
Leonhard placed on IR
Jim Leonhard's season is officially over.
Two days before they take on the Patriots for AFC East supremacy rights, the Jets have placed safety Jim Leonhard on injured reserve with a fractured right tibia, effectively ending his season. It's a big blow to their third-ranked defense, given Leonhard is essentially the quarterback of the unit. He's also the main punt returner.
Leonhard had a rod placed through the tibia to stabilize the bone during surgery last night at Morristown (N.J.) Memorial Hospital and the Jets say they expect a full recovery. Leonhard remains hospitalized and is tentatively scheduled to be discharged either tomorrow or Monday.
He was injured in practice yesterday after colliding with wide receiver Patrick Turner. His 61 combined tackles ranks only behind Davis Harris' 74 on the team, and he also has an interception.
Even before word was officially handed down this morning, the Jets pretty much knew Leonhard was going to be done for the year due to the severity of the injury. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whom obviously knew Leonhard since their days together in Baltimore, was especially somber in discussing what the Jets are going to miss with Leonhard now out.
"I think a lot of it starts with off-the-field," Pettine said yesterday. "He's not just a great football player; he's a great person. I think his personality is just tremendous, very funny guy, good-natured. I think he kept the room very light, was very quick to point things out, very quick-witted. That's a big part of it, to me, is more the personal part of it, the off-the-field stuff.
"On the field, a lot of people do realize what an important part he was. He really did quarterback the back end. He was a big part of helping guys get lined up and he was usually a guy that was in the right place at the right time doing his job. That's something that we are really going to miss."
Eric Smith will start in Leonhard's place against the Patriots, and reserve defensive back James Ihedigbo should also see an increased role at safety. Ihedigbo has two sacks and has been used in a variety of roles, including sometimes lining up as an extra linebacker.
"He was already up in some of our groupings, so a lot of the job he was learning might now have to carry over to some of our different personnel groupings," Pettine said. "He will definitely be a big part of our plan."
As for the punt returning duties, Jerricho Cotchery, who's expected to play Monday after missing the last two games with a slight groin tear, will most likely take over those chores. But there's also a chance wideout Santonio Holmes or cornerback Antonio Cromartie will get some opportunities back there as well.
"We like to play two deep sometimes so I’m sure I'll get Jerricho involved like he used to be," special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said yesterday. "You're losing an eighth ranked punt returner in the NFL with Jimmy. That's a loss. Jerricho finished close to that last year, so he'll get involved. We have been working with several other guys. Santonio had come to me and was ready to get back into it, so was Cromartie and Kyle [Wilson].
"We could go all those ways. We are going to look at all of that and see what is the best and put together a package that best suits us. Jerricho is probably the steadiest and [we] may get him involved at two deep with one of the other guys."