NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Rex Ryan can’t stand the hideous number next to his team’s defense on the list of NFL rankings.
There it is, a double-digit in black and white, screaming at him unlike anything he’s ever seen: The Jets are 31st in the league – second-to-last – in run defense.
That’s unheard of from a Ryan-led unit, whether it has been Rex, twin brother Rob or even their famous father, Buddy.
“Most other coordinators in the league have been there,” Ryan said Thursday. “I have not. That definitely bothers me.”
The next big test comes Sunday at Baltimore against a Ravens team that ranks 11th in overall offense with quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, who’s among the league leaders with 231 yards rushing.
“There was no better wakeup call than to look at the schedule and say, `It’s Baltimore week,’” said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, a former Ravens assistant. “If you can’t get pumped up for that one, if you can’t get your juices flowing for this week – Bart always calls these `double chin-strap games’ – we tell our guys, if you can’t get ready for this one, then you’re sitting in the wrong room.”
Ryan’s life has been all about defense: blitzes, sacks and smashing running backs. And, he is used to dominating opponents. Ryan helped build the Ravens’ defense into one of the league’s best, and he has done the same in his two-plus seasons in New York.
That’s why this early season stretch has been so perplexing. The Jets are ranked 11th in overall defense, but it’s the performance against the run that is somewhat alarming. Oakland’s Darren McFadden zipped through New York’s defense with ease, finishing with a career-high 171 yards last Sunday in the Raiders’ 34-24 victory.
“I can live with this one,” Ryan said, “but it doesn’t feel good.”
Ryan was angry after the game, and rightfully so. It wasn’t up to his lofty standards, and his coaching staff and players agreed. Pettine, Ryan’s right-hand man, said he was “disgusted, frustrated” by the performance.
“That was well below our standards,” Pettine said. “Sometimes you can handle some technique mistakes. Sometimes guys just are going against somebody that’s better and coming up short. But when it’s a mental error or whether it’s a guy just being lackadaisical or it’s an effort thing, those are the things that we consider unacceptable.”
Linebacker Bart Scott offered a unique take, saying he thought the defense in general was “lethargic.” He said the fact the team was playing on the West Coast with the change in time zones, and confusion over when the best time to eat meals played a role.
“I think collectively as a group, it was just one of those weird days,” Scott said. “Generally, when you play and it’s a 1 o’clock game, you pop up, you eat, you use the fuel for that game. Sometimes when you play at 4 o’clock, it’s a little bit more difficult because you eat too early, you aren’t hungry to eat the carb load and do what you need to do to get ready for a game. Sometimes that’s the weirdness of night games and that’s the weirdness of afternoon games.”
While that explanation might be tough to swallow, the Jets are trying to do all they can to fix things in a hurry, especially with Baltimore and New England up next. Whether it’s lack of effort, lousy lunches or time changes, New York insists it needs to learn from their disastrous performance against the Raiders and move on.
“As Rex said in the team meeting, we’re not going to let Oakland beat us twice and let the lingering effects of a poor performance defensively or a tough loss like that linger into the next week,” Pettine said. “Because this is the NFL, you better be able to hit the reset button in a hurry.”
Many of the players said they were embarrassed by what happened last Sunday, and vowed to be better. Ryan proclaimed before the season – as he usually does – that this defense could be the best on the league. They’ve got a long way to go, though, based on the first three games.
“Yeah, man, this thing stings like a Clorox bath,” nose tackle Sione Pouha said. “The one thing with Clorox, though, it’s supposed to purify your mistakes and clean you up a little bit, so we’re out of that stage and we’re moving on.”
One big problem against the Raiders was the fact the Jets failed to secure the edges against McFadden, allowing him to hit the outside and run freely. There have been other issues early, too, such as not getting adequate or consistent pressure on the quarterback and mental mistakes that have resulted in penalties.
“There were some plays where guys weren’t going to the ball like our trademark is,” Pettine said. “We tell our guys, `Just because you have the decal on, there’s nothing magical about it.’ … To waste a game defensively like that and not play to our standards is obviously disappointing.”
Both Ryan and Pettine said the team had a good week of practice leading up to the game, so that made it even more puzzling. Despite all that, Scott brushed off the Jets’ low ranking against the run, especially since it’s still so early in the season.
“Anybody that thinks we’re the 31st-ranked defense stopping the run, and they think there are 30 teams better at stopping the run, I would call you a little bit foolish,” he said. “The week before we played them, we were fifth. Which are we, fifth or 31st? It’s up to us to prove which one we are.”
Do you think the Jets’ defense is overrated? Will they be able to stop the Ravens? Sound off in the comments below…
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