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The Truth About Jim Leonhard's Absence

How much will Jets really miss Leonhard?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Leonhard's injury probably won't be the disaster it is being made out to be.

    It isn't hard to find statistical evidence that makes it seem like the Jets defense was markedly worse last season after Jim Leonhard broke his leg a few days before a 45-3 beatdown in New England.

    ESPN put some of them together to paint a picture of intense doom and gloom in the weeks to come. The Jets allowed touchdown passes much more frequently (one every 15.9 attempts instead of one every 25.9), allowed rushing touchdowns more frequently (one every 46.7 attempts before Leonhard's injury) one every 25.6 attempts after and 6.4 more points per game allowed after Leonhard's injury.

    Alarming stats, but only if you have no memory of the way the final five games of last season played out or if you think that it doesn't matter that one game was such an outlier that it skewed the numbers wildly in the negative direction. That game was the aforementioned Patriots rout.

    In that game, the Pats scored 45 points, scored four times on 29 passes and ran for two more touchdowns on 26 rushing attempts. It was a dreadful night that saw the Jets defense at a loss when it came to communication, execution and everything else that goes into stopping an opposing defense.

    Over the other four games, things were much different. The Jets allowed 18 points per game, just one over their average for the first 11 games of the season, and the rate of passing and rushing touchdowns (22.6 and 34, respectively) were much more in line with the work the team had done before Leonhard got injured.

    The Patriots game was a major outlier, in other words, and it was one that can be explained by how much the Jets had to scramble after losing Leonhard in practice just before the game. Once they had a chance to figure out what they were doing at safety, the Jets had just one more bad game defensively -- a 38-34 loss to the Bears -- and went on to beat the Patriots in a playoff rematch at Foxborough.

    None of this means the team isn't going to miss Leonhard for the rest of the season. He's better than Brodney Pool and Eric Smith while also playing an important role in setting up coverages in the secondary before each play.

    That will be missed, but last year proved that there are ways to work around it without the marked drop of effectiveness that is suggested by the statistics people are throwing around. At the end of the day, the Jets' chances of making the playoffs should not be too adversely affected by the loss of Leonhard.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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