Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Rex to defense: Get the ball!
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' defense was feeling pretty good about itself after its eight-sack demolition of Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, but the postgame celebration was shattered by a challenge from coach Rex Ryan.
"Rex got on the defense about creating turnovers," defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said Wednesday.
The Jets are ranked third in total defense, doing a lot of nice things, but they've struggled with takeaways -- only two in three games, none in the past two. To be recognized as an elite defense, they need to do a better job of forcing turnovers. Sacks are great. Three-and-outs are nice. But you need game-changing plays.
"That's been a big emphasis this week," rush linebacker Quinton Coples said.
It should be.
The Jets face the Tennessee Titans, who have yet to commit a turnover. Obviously, Jake Locker has done a terrific job of protecting the football -- one of three starting quarterbacks with no interceptions -- but he'll face a defense that's starting to mature.
A defense that prides itself on making life miserable for quarterbacks. The Jets have caused problems for the Bucs' Josh Freeman (benched Wednesday), the Patriots' Tom Brady and, of course, Manuel, who combined completed only 47 percent of their passes against the Jets and were sacked 12 times.
"We go into every game with the same intention -- stop the quarterback," linebacker DeMario Davis said.
If a quarterback can't solve the Jets' scheme, nose tackle Damon Harrison said, he's "like a deer in the headlights."
Quite simply, the Jets have to do a better job of getting their hands on the football. In fact, they've had only six pass break-ups. That's surprisingly low, considering the improved pass rush. In theory, the quarterbacks -- under increased pressure -- should be making bad decisions with the ball. But that hasn't happened yet.