The Jets are heading into one of the most important games of their 2010-11 season, and they’re going in without starting safety Jim Leonhard.
Leonhard suffered a broken leg in practice on Friday, ending his season at 11 games after amassing 52 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
In addition to calling defensive signals in the Jets’ secondary, Leonhard also served as Gang Green’s primary punt returner. The third-year player had returned 21 punts this season for 238 yards before his untimely injury.
Losing Leonhard mere days before AFC East clash with the Patriots will definitely take a toll on the Jets’ already struggling defense. Leonhard’s replacement, Eric Smith, will need to bring his best game to keep up with Tom Brady and the Pats’ offense. The other starting safety, Brodney Pool, also will need to bring his A-game against the versatile Patriots’ offense.
New England is coming off one of its best offensive performances of the season — in addition to plenty of rest — so expect the Patriots’ offense to be potent against the Jets, especially without Leonhard, who is well-versed in the Jets’ defensive systems and was an established leader in the defensive backfield. New England has plenty of weapons in its offensive arsenal, and Brady knows how to exploit weaknesses. The Patriots won’t hesitate to switch up their attack to take advantage of mismatches on defense.
In a game with so much on the line, losing the all-around performance of Jim Leonhard will affect the Jets.
Don’t be surprised if his absence determines the outcome.
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