If the Jets have any intention of stopping the vaunted New Orleans Saints’ offensive attack, they’re going to need all hands on deck in their talented secondary.
Gang Green took another positive step towards being at full strength for Sunday’s showdown in the Superdome, with cornerback Darrelle Revis, and safeties Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes returning to practice Thursday, each of them participating fully in all portions of the workout.
But beneath the goalposts at the Jets’ training facility sits a row of excersise bikes, and too many of those were still being occupied by members of the star-studded last line of defense during today’s session.
Cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland did not practice again today; Sheppard still nursing a quad injury, Strickland an ankle. With three days until Sunday, it remains unclear whether or not either defensive back will be able to play.
“It’s the same response as last week,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said when asked about the injured corners. “We have a lot of confidence in Dwight Lowery, Drew Coleman and Marquice Cole if he needs to step up. They’ve got the reps. “Like Rex has said, no one is feeling sorry for us, especially new Orleans. The game’s at 4:00 and we’ll be out there ready to go.”
The injury situation has been the hot topic around these Jets this week, and with good reason. Multiple injuries to the secondary are not the types of things you want the newspapers to be writing about when you’re traveling to New Orleans to take on the number one-rated offense in the game.
Gang Green was able to smother two prolific offenses in their victories over Houston and New Orleans, in large part due to the sheer number of healthy bodies they had in the defensive backfield. The Jets used 10 dbacks during their victory over the Patriots, and that, coupled with the pressure they were able to get on Tom Brady, left the Patriots offense out of sync and demoralized.
But if you thought the Patriots offense is good, take a look at the numbers for New Orleans. They are currently sporting an average of 267.3 yards passing a game, good for sixth in the league. They’re also tops in the league in points per game (40.0) and total yards per game (438.0). The way Drew Brees and company are working right now, it’s a daunting task to stop them when all your personnel is healthy.
The Jets do have the great equalizer that can neutralize any passing attack – the ability to put the pressure on the quarterback consistently. But if New Orleans is up to the task, and can pick up the pressure from various angles, the injuries in the secondary could have more of an outcome on Sunday’s action than the Jets would like.
OTHER INJURY UPDATES
In addition to Revis, Rhodes and Leonhard, Larry Izzo (hamstring), Kris Jenkins (groin), Sione Pouha (ankle), Matt Slauson (ankle), Damien Woody (shoulder) and Wallace Wright (quad) all participated fully in practice today, and all are expected to play Sunday against the Saints.
DEALING WITH THE NOISE
The Superdome has been one of the loudest venues in the league for quite some time, another important factor the Jets must contend with Sunday. The team has been using artificial crowd noise throughout practice this week to better prepare the offense for the task, but several delay of game penalties were called during Thursday’s workout.
“We had too many delay of games (today),” head coach Rex Ryan said. “I thought our offense was seeing one thing, trying to get it, checking off things, and that’s what you’ve got to do. That crowd noise we’ve got at practice is good because it’s going to be double that when we get to playing the game for real and we know that. If we’re getting out of plays, we’ve got to get out quick and make the proper audibles.”
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
If you’re an athlete, you relish the opportunity to compete against the best. The Jets are faced with yet another early season test, but it’s an opportunity this group is eager to tackle.
“It’s a challenge,” Pettine said of going up against an offense as prolific as the Saints’. “As we’ve said all along, these are the kind of days that, if you consider yourself a good defense, you live for. You want to be challenged like this. I think we relish the opportunity and we’re looking forward to it.”
The team returns to the practice field Friday for their final preparations for Sunday’s contest. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.