Nose tackle Kris Jenkins called it a "complete team effort." Soon thereafter, linebacker Eric Barton chimed in with a similar sentiment, labeling it a "concentrated effort." Head coach Eric Mangini characterized it as a "group" effort. Simply put, the Jets have discovered the straw that stirs their stout run defense, and they know it begins and ends with all 11 men.
All such credit came one day after the Jets' defense delivered its most dominant run-stopping performance to-date, in a 26-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets limited the trio of Cedric Benson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Perry to just 43 yards on 21 carries.
Sure the Bengals entered the afternoon averaging just 72 rushing yards per game, ranking them just ahead of Indianapolis (69 rushing yards/game) for second-worst in the NFL, but nonetheless, the Jets' did all they could to discredit their critics. Through five games the Jets rank third in the NFL in run defense with 69 yards allowed per game, pitting them behind the Ravens (66.4) and Steelers (66.8)
In today's press conference, Mangini described the ranking as "positive," and something which will help the Jets even more as the playing conditions worsen in the winter months.
"Whether I'm talking about wind, rain, those things that affect the passing game, but also as you get into the cold months, you have to be able to run the football and you have to be able to stop the run," Mangini said. "I think that's a very positive, early part of what we have been able to do defensively."
But sure enough, it hasn't always been this way in Jets' land. Last season, the Jets allowed an average of 134 yards each game on the ground, ranking them 29th in the NFL. But after the team stumbled to a 4-12 finish, the Jets knew it was time head back to the drawing board and search for solutions.
"We came into the season knowing we weren't that good at [run defense] in the past few years and we wanted to get it done," Barton said. "Everyone was doing whatever it takes to get that done whether it's studying, lifting, running, whatever it is."
Thus, after watching opposing backs crash through holes in their defense, the Jets traded for Jenkins, who had spent the following seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
Five games into his Jets' career, Jenkins has already made that noticeable improvement, one in which Barton said "I've never seen anything like it before."
With the 6-foot-4, 349-pound Jenkins bursting through the Jets' defensive line, numerous holes have opened for the likes of OLB Calvin Pace, OLB Bryan Thomas and ILB David Harris to reach the running back. In fact, Barton called Jenkins' impact as a "domino effect."
Mangini voiced similar opinions today, explaining during his afternoon press conference that even when teams attempt to run away from Jenkins, the Jets have a defender there to greet them.
"If it's just one guy and you're holding up well on the outside, Jenkins, he's there in the middle," Mangini explained. "Playing the base technique, understanding the blocking schemes, getting the right fits and adding players like Calvin and Jenk to the front seven I think has all helped."
Miller Closing In
CB Justin Miller (toe) was inactive for the fifth consecutive game yesterday, a decision which came down to the wire. Mangini told reporters today that Miller was close to being active yesterday, but the team ultimately decided to give Miller another Sunday to rest.
"Those decisions are really tough," Mangini said. "He played on quite a few special teams, and you're just looking at numbers of plays, how many plays can that guy contribute."
As for when Miller returns, Mangini did say that he would "definitely look at" the idea of pairing Miller with Leon Washington back on kickoffs.
When asked during today's presser whether the return of Mike Nugent for Sunday's game against Oakland is a possibility, Mangini said, "I'm not sure I would even touch on that until Friday, just because guys have the week and they are up and down."
In other words....stay tuned.
Mangini on Gholston
Vernon Gholston received a grand opportunity at outside linebacker yesterday when Thomas left the field for a few plays, but the rookie was unable to make anything of it. Despite the low-impact, slow-progression performance from Gholston, Mangini said he's not concerned: "When I'm going to be concerned is when we are not making progress and when we are not seeing him get better, week-in and week-out."