Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine offered a stark assessment of his unit after the Jets' 45-3 loss to the Patriots last Monday.
“You can use all of the adjectives you want: embarrassing, humiliating,” he said.
Well, let’s add a couple more: disastrous, disgraceful and potentially season-altering.
Darrelle Revis said the Jets lacked "overall fight and effort" against the Patriots. They were also missing starting safety Jim Leonhard.
Starting on Sunday, the Jets defense needs to show it can perform – and dominate – without Leonhard. If not, you can pretty much forget about Rex Ryan bringing his comedy routine to Dallas in February for the Super Bowl.
Ryan downplayed the impact of Leonhard’s absence against New England, when the Jets allowed the most points by a Ryan-coached unit. But Eric Smith, who started because of the Leonhard injury, hurt the Jets with a pass interference penalty that led to a touchdown in the first quarter. Pettine was also critical of safety Brodney Pool this week, saying the free-agent pickup has “underachieved” in his first season with the Jets.
Players also mentioned that there were communication issues in the secondary against New England. Though Antonio Cromartie said the secondary fixed them this week during practice.
"The communication has been the best its ever been all season," he said.
How well that translates to the field against Miami on Sunday is critical.
The Dolphins haven't produced a 100-yard rusher this season, so the secondary may be tested on Sunday if the weather permits.
And, as Pettine pointed out, Dolphins QB Chad Henne has played well against the Jets. Pettine actually said “it seems like he struggles against everybody but us” which sounds like bulletin-board material.
But the coach may be on to something: Henne has a 101.7 quarterback rating in three games against the Jets, throwing five touchdowns and one interception with a 63.7 completion percentage. For his career, Henne has thrown 24 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He threw for 363 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in Week 3.
In addition to Henne's success, Miami wideout Brandon Marshallcaught an eye-popping ten balls for 166 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ 31-23 win in Week 3, though Revis will cover him on Sunday. Davone Bess had six catches for 86 yards in the Week 3 meeting.
So given all of that, it’s logical to think the secondary, even with a healthy Revis this time around, will be tested on Sunday.
It will be their second chance to figure out how to deal with life after Leonhard.
“Jim was the coach of the secondary. He made sure everyone was lined up the right way. He made the right calls, he made things more simple,” Cromartie said. "But we'll be fine."