Rex Ryan is never one to be shy about anything, and that includes occasional reminders to general manager Mike Tannenbaum of the Jets' draft strategy the last two seasons. Tannenbaum himself ticks off the number with little prompting. "I know the number you're referring to. Of the seven [draft] picks , six have been on offense," Tannenbaum said. "[Ryan] will tell you how good of a coach he is on defense, so that doesn't even matter."
Ryan may be a terrific defensive coach, but that doesn't mean he won't urge Tannenbaum to pay more attention to the defense in this year's draft. And with a plethora of quality defensive linemen and linebackers available, it won't come as a surprise if the Jets dip into the talent pool to address defensive needs in this week's draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday.
"In a perfect world, you balance it out," Tannenbaum said. "It never really works that way, but you try to be as balanced as possible."
And what a great year to achieve some balance. Even though the Jets are drafting 30th overall, they should be able to land any number of highly valued prospects to improve the front seven.
The most frequently mentioned name associated with the Jets: Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who is being considered as a potential replacement for Kris Jenkins. The veteran nose tackle was released last month after two injury-plagued seasons in which he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same (left) knee.
The Jets have done plenty of research on Taylor, who has had some foot problems but remains on their radar nevertheless.
"He probably does have some feet issues," Jets vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales said. "I guess if you're talking about a guy that was once 380 pounds; he is 335 pounds now. He's a good player, strong and physical. He's been at Baylor a couple years. He's a good football player. I don't think in the long-term, if you're looking throughout a contract, the feet would be a big issue. If you're looking for a guy that can help you now, he and many others have a chance to do that."
If Taylor is gone, there are plenty of others from whom to choose. Blue-chip defensive linemen such as tackles Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley and ends Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn and Cameron Jordan likely will be off the board, but this year's crop is deep enough to give the Jets quality options, whether it's looking for a replacement for Jenkins or adding to depth at end, where Shaun Ellis turns 34 in June and will be looking for a new contract.
And don't forget about a good pass-rushing linebacker, if one's available. "I think if we could add some depth, competition on the defensive side, that's something we'd like to accomplish during the offseason," Tannenbaum said.
Looks as though they'll get that chance this week.