If you want to sum up the kind of season the New York Jets’ defense is having, all you need to do is look at the statistics.
Gang Green has managed to register only two forced fumbles (both recovered), are allowing a fourth-worst 373.9 yards per game and a third-worst 22.2 first downs per game, has sacked the quarterback for only eight times, and has given up 24 touchdowns this year. To top it all off, the Jets have the fourth-worst defense in the entire league (27th against the run, 26th against the pass).
In spite of its performance (or lack thereof), the defense as of late has had numerous players step up and shake things up for a Jets squad that is already mired in a dismal season.
First there is rookie LB David Harris, who has recently emerged as the team’s new defensive leader with Jonathan Vilma out for the season. Then there is Hank Poteat, who leads the team in interceptions with two, both coming in a span of three weeks. Hard-hitting Abram Elam and rookie Darrelle Revis are also helping things out for the Jets defense.
The fact that these players are stepping up has certainly pleased head coach Eric Mangini, who has stressed involvement from all players since training camp.
“It really goes back to what we talked a lot about in training camp, where when you work a David Harris in with the first group, even though he’s not the first group guy, that’s important,” he stated.
“The rest of the players need to hear his voice and need to work with him. That’s why we do it in training camp because you don’t know when an injury is going to take place, and you don’t know how or when that guy is going to play. Being able to get some continuity and familiarity with different people, I think, is very important.”
Elam, known for his aggressive style of play on the field, believes that the quality and the desire of his teammates in the locker room is reason enough for their emergence on the field.
“Everybody wants to go out and compete, everybody loves this game and everybody takes it seriously each and every time,” said Elam.
Harris, who has been thrust in the lead defensive role already in this his rookie season, is impressed with how everyone is stepping up as of late.
“People are taking advantage of the opportunities and getting used to everything,” he replied. “Everybody’s peaking at the right moment.”
It’s been impressive to see guys like Harris, Elam, Poteat, and Revis rising to the occasion to help out a much maligned defensive unit. Will it be enough to give Gang Green a win before heading into the bye week against a Redskins squad still reeling from the humiliating ordeal they endured last week in Foxboro? If the aforementioned players, and everyone else on the unit, continue to play the way they have recently, a win would be in order.
After the team practice, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton addressed to the media about the issues surrounding the team on the defensive side of the ball.
Coach Sutton also chimed in on the certain players who have been rising to the occasion recently on the defensive unit.
“The one thing all of those guys did when their opportunities came was they approached it like they were the starting player, which they were. I don’t think they or we lowered the expectation for the position,” said Sutton. “Whenever you go in there, you’re the starting player you got to perform like a starter and do a good job. Guys like Hank and Abe, they really stepped up and done a good job and I am happy with them.”
Among the players he spoke about was rookie LB David Harris, who has been thrust into the leading role for the defense since the departure of Jonathan Vilma due to injury.
“He’s been progressing really well the entire time from camp on, and the more he’s been involved, the more opportunities he’s gotten. To his credit, he took advantage of the opportunity and had been preparing all the time. He was ready to go.”
Very special guests
As coach Mangini announced in his press conference, there were some special guests in attendance for Friday’s practice session. Fifty-five members of all five branches of the United States military were on hand to witness the Jets get ready for their showdown with the Washington Redskins this Sunday, which will be Military Appreciation Day.
Mangini expressed his gratitude to the men and women of the armed forces for the sacrifices they make for this country. The players expressed the same sentiments.
“I can’t stress enough how much we appreciate what they’re doing every single day,” he said. “It’s a nice opportunity for us to say thank you to all of the people that are helping us every day and are so important to us each day. I’m looking forward to it.”
“That was great. It was some of the troops’ first time getting a chance to see an NFL practice so I’m glad I was a part of it,” said Abram Elam, whose father was a veteran in Vietnam, as was David Harris’ father.
The soldiers on hand were given gifts from the Jets organization and five of them entered the press room to speak to members of the media. Most of these men are Jets fans and, not surprisingly, predicted a Jets victory.
Not for long
For the third straight day, OL Adrian Jones was absent due to personal reasons, as announced by coach Mangini.
While the head coach did not specify the reasons for Jones’ absence, he assured the media that it wasn’t long-term.
“It’s just something that he’s going through right now, and I completely support him,” he explained. “My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Despite the personal issues, Jones is listed as probable to be in action for Sunday.
With the updated injury report just announced, Laveranues Coles has been listed as doubtful for Sunday's game. Coles, who is still feeling the effects of a concussion he sustained in last week’s game against Buffalo, did not practice for the third straight day.
While this is usually an indicator that he will unlikely see action 48 hours from now, coach Mangini made it clear that the process with Coles is the same as everyone else.
“With any injury, we’ll wait right up until game time and be going through the process of evaluating and seeing where he is,” he explained.
Aside from the guest appearances by the military, Friday’s practice was status quo during the half-hour span given to the media for team access. Stretches, opening drills, and special teams drills were what the Jets worked on during that time.
Doubtful: WR Laveranues Coles (concussion)
Questionable: TE Chris Baker (back), DL Mike Devito (shoulder), S Kerry Rhodes (knee), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee)
Probable: DB Abram Elam (neck), DL C.J. Mosley (shoulder), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), DB Hank Poteat (chest), DB Eric Smith (thigh)
Out: OL Randy Thomas (triceps)
Questionable: OL Mike Pucillo (back), LB Marcus Washington (hamstring)
Probable: RB Rock Cartwright (quad), CB Fred Smoot (hamstring), TE Todd Yoder (ankle), WR James Thrash (hamstring)
In addition: RB Clinton Portis is a game-time decision by the coaches.