Jets Insider Thursday Team Report
REX CHALLENGES THE FAITHFUL
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Just how important is Sunday’s matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars? The Jags’ 4-4 record matches that of Gang Green, and with both clubs fighting to stay alive in the AFC playoff race, falling a game below .500 will be devastating for either squad.
This one’s so important, in fact that head Coach Rex Ryan has once again challenged the loyal Jets faithful to bring their “A” game this Sunday.
“When we played New England, that was the loudest stadium I had ever been in. There was no question this wasn’t just the Jets. This was their team, our fans’ team. We need a great effort this week, so I’m challenging our fans. Be prideful that this is your football team and we can accomplish everything we set out to do and I think when we get that energy from our crowd, that might be the difference this week.”
STOPPING THE MOJO
The Jets are going to need a raucous crowd, and an outstanding performance from their defense to stop running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the third-leading rusher in the NFL, from wreaking havoc in Sunday’s affair. He may look small in height, but Jones-Drew is nothing short of a bowling ball when he hits the hole. The Jets’ defense has done a job beyond anyone’s expectations in stopping the run in the absence of injured tackle Kris Jenkins, but on Sunday, they’ll be faced with their toughest challenge to date in Jones-Drew.
“It’s difficult because you’ve got to bend at your ankle, knees, hips and everything to get down there to hit this guy. He is a powerful man. There is no question about it. I really like this guy. I like the guy at Miami probably the best, Ronnie Brown. Then, I’d put this guy right there.”
So, how do you go about stopping a player who presents this type of problem? Many have tried, but few have succeeded so far this season – his 737 rushing yards put him third in the NFL through the first nine weeks of the season.
“A big point of emphasis is tackling,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “If you can get a guy down, get him down. Get guys to the ball. It’s simple, but it’s not that simple. It’s going to be tough.”
“He’s every bit as advertised,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “He’s a special back. We faced him a year ago in Baltimore and he was as much as we stressed all week. It’s easy to say, that you make sure you set the edges on him and he’s never down and make sure the second and third guy in never relax around the pile. he still managed to really get some runs on us.”
Pettine, like Pace, stressed tackling as imperitive for Gang Green’s defense this week if they want to stop Jones-Drew. If the unit can maintain gap discipline and keep him off the edges, they have the personnel to be able to stop MJD and put the ball in quarterback David Garrard’s hands and force him to try and beat them, which presents a huge advantage for the Jets.
Linebacker Vernon Gholston was unable to practice today, and Shaun Ellis and wide receiver Brad Smith were limited in their activities, but Coach Ryan fully expects them to play Sunday. Cornerbacks Lito Sheppard (quad), and Donald Strickland (ankle), Damien Woody (lower back) and Wallace Wright (knee) all participated fully in today’s workout.
The beneficiary of the bye week, Sheppard feels ready to go for this Sunday’s matchup with the Jags.
“I’m feeling good,” Sheppard said. “I’m anxious and can’t wait to get back out there and hopefully add a great asset to this secondary. These guys have been playing great up until this point. Hopefully, I can come back and continue to add on to that.”
The team will work out tomorrow in their final preparations for Sunday. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.