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Jets Defense Follows Offense In Ineptitude

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
November 22nd, 2005
Unless Ty Law does a monumental contract restructure it's almost certain he'll be gone next season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Unless Ty Law does a monumental contract restructure it's almost certain he'll be gone next season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
You know what the most disappointing aspect of Sunday's 27-0 embarrassment against the Broncos Sunday in Denver was?

Not team owner Woody Johnson's man-runs-from-poodle address of reporters afterward.

Not Brooks Bollinger's concussion.

Not Curtis Martin's seven rushing yards on four carries.

Not Justin Miller's second kickoff return fumble in as many weeks.

Not Vinny Testaverde's four turnovers.

No, the most disappointing thing about that loss was the terrible performance of the defense, which seems to have gotten caught up in the pitiful state of the injury-riddled offense.

Unlike the offense, which found itself playing with its fifth quarterback of the season late in Sunday's game (Kliff Kingsbury), the defense played Sunday, as it has for much of the season, almost whole.

The defense is missing starting linebacker Eric Barton and, for the last two weeks, it's been without starting cornerback David Barrett. Both have been replaced with at least adequate backups. Mark Brown has played about as well as Barton had been. And, Barrett's scratched eye, it's given rookie Justin Miller a chance and he's played fairly well.

So then, what's the excuse for the Jets' defense allowing the Broncos to shove two nine-plus-minute drives down its throat on the first two offensive possessions of the game.

This is a Jets' defense with five former No. 1 draft picks among its front seven, including DT Dewayne Robertson, DEs Shaun Ellis, John Abraham and Bryan Thomas and linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Add former Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law (more on him in a moment) and what you have is a defense that should be performing better than it has been.

Herman Edwards, after the loss in Denver, stressed to his players not to point fingers.

The impression would be that the defense shouldn't point fingers at the inept offense. But the way the defense played against Denver, failing to stop the run, failing to get itself off the field, how can it point a single finger at the offense?

To their credit, the Jets' defensive players acknowledged their shortcomings after the game. Abraham spoke about how "flat'' the defense came out against the Broncos and said he played poorly. Ellis spoke about how Sunday wasn't embarrassing, that "it's been embarrassing for a while.''

The Jets' defensive failure is odd in that is appears that they are playing hard, not quitting.

Vilma, for example, looks like a guy who's playing for his life on every play.

It's just that the same bad mistake continue to occur.

Law, of all people, has been guilty of a succession of gaffes, lowlighted by Sunday's defensive holding penalty that kept the Broncos' opening drive alive after it had stalled at the Jets' 30.

It was one of two Law penalties in the game, giving him nine penalties for 73 yards this season to go along with his five interceptions for 50 yards.

Incredibly, after the game, Law actually spoke about how he thought the league should review the new rule after the season "to give us (defensive backs) a chance.''

He also said he's not going to change the way he plays, that he'll continue to be aggressive.

Is Law kidding?

How many more damaging penalties have to occur before he makes a proper adjustment?

And, can he possibly believe that the league, which is infatuated with more offense, is going to change a rule it just instituted?

"He's always been a handsy player,'' Edwards said. "The rule, obviously, is a rule where they're really watching guys with their hands, and he's been a handsy player. Sometimes he forgets you just can't use your hands as much as they let you use them before, and they're calling him.

"They're watching him because he's one of the guys for who the rule was set with him in mind, and every once in a while he gets one. The problem is he's gotten them in some critical situations, on third down when you're off the field, not on first down. He's got to be careful with his hands basically.''

Asked how his defense could come out flat against a team as powerful as the Broncos, Edwards said, "(The Broncos) came out in a sense where when they got rolling on us and we didn't stop them right away. But I thought what Denver did to us, they got us off balance a little bit and they got us a little frustrated. They played (hard), but they ran out of gas a little bit, too. They got worn down a little bit.''

The defense has had it tough all year in that the offense has been anemic and a turnover machine. But it needed to be the team's strength. To that, it Sunday in Denver.

****

The Jets have 27 turnovers through 10 games. Their previous high under Edwards was 21 in 2001, his first season in New York. They've given up the ball 11 times in the last two games. The Broncos, as an example, have only nine turnovers all season.

The Jets entered this season having the fewest turnovers in the league over the past four seasons under Edwards (76). This year, the Jets' 27 turnovers are the second-most in the NFL, one behind the Saints, whom they play Sunday.

Incredibly, 12 of the Jets' 27 turnovers have come from Vinny Testaverde, who's thrown six interceptions, lost three snap exchanges and three on sack/fumbles. Testaverde's 12 turnovers have come in 43 possessions.

The Jets have had just three turnover-free games _ Miami, Baltimore and San Diego _ and are 1-2 in those games.

"We've got to do a better job of not turning the ball over,'' Edwards said. "That's an alarming rate. We've got so many turnovers I can't count them anymore. We're minus-nine. We've never been there. We've always been in the plus turnover. That's one thing we've prided ourselves in is not turning the ball over, not committing fouls.

"But the turnovers are killing us. They're staggering. We talk about it, don't do it in practice and then we do it in the game. We've got to do a better job of that, and if we can do a better job we'll win some games. If you turn the ball over like that, you're not going to win in anyone's league. It's very, very difficult.

"I just want to go through a game where we didn't turn the ball over," Edwards said. "We used to play like that. When you're playing like that you generally win around here. People sometimes said it was boring, but it wins."

Look for the Jets to make Kliff Kingsbury the No. 2 quarterback, perhaps as soon as this week. They'd like to see more of him to know whether he's worth keeping in the future.

Testaverde, of course, is expected to retire for good after this season.

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