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Sunday, October 7, 2012
Those resilient Jets? Don't think so

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Frankly, the New York Jets don't give a damn what you think. Wide receiver Chaz Schilens expressed that sentiment rather bluntly.

"We're 2-2, everyone thinks we suck," he said. "Who cares? Screw everyone. They think we suck, so … there are a lot of other teams that are 2-2, and they're called resurgent and 'Oh, they're so great.' It doesn't matter. We're going to play the game as well as we can."

That game is Monday night against the undefeated Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets have the big stage to show the nation they're not the punchless, lifeless group that was accused of quitting last week by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan says that the Jets won't be "covering up, we're going to be throwing punches" against the Texans.

Since last week's 34-0 debacle, Rex Ryan has done a lot of hard coaching and big talking, vowing that his team's true character will emerge. He and his staff cranked up the intensity in practice and reached into the motivational handbook, but the team's history under Ryan suggests the outcome will be the same as it was against the 49ers.

The Jets' so-called resilience is a myth. Check it out:

Under Ryan, they're 3-7 after double-digit losses. Let's take it a step further: The Jets are 0-3 after losing by at least three touchdowns.

Their 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots in 2010 has received a lot of mentions over the past week, as if it was some sort of rock-bottom turning point, but people tend to forget what happened in the following game -- a horrible loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Perhaps the bigger story is the growing number of double-digit losses -- eight of the past 10 defeats, dating back to last season. But we'll keep it in the here and now, trying to figure out how this team will respond.

"We're going to come back the way we know how," Ryan insisted. "We're not covering up, we're going to be throwing punches."

Maybe he meant to say "punch lines," because their receiving corps is a joke.

The organization is hanging Mark Sanchez out to dry, surrounding him with castoffs from other teams. It's hard to replace players such as Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, but the New York Giants do it every week, finding ways to overcome key losses.

The Jets' best chance against the Texans is to run the ball a lot to take pressure off Sanchez, who could be another bad game away from losing his job to Tim Tebow. If Sanchez is forced into too many third-and-long situations, he's doomed because Houston's third-down defense is ranked No. 1 in the league.

Sanchez might be doomed anyway, but at least he'll have a puncher's chance if the once-vaunted ground attack decides to make an appearance. You could make the argument this is the biggest, non-playoff start of Sanchez's career, considering his eroding job security.

It has been five years since a Jets quarterback was pulled or benched -- Kellen Clemens for Chad Pennington in 2007 -- and the pressure is mounting on Ryan, perhaps from within the organization, to make a move.

In many ways, the biggest disappointment is Ryan's beloved defense, which missed 17 tackles and allowed 245 rushing yards last week. The Jets might have the most underachieving defense in the league.

Ryan took a back-to-basics approach in practice, reteaching run "fits" (alignment on running plays) and emphasizing block-shedding drills. On Thursday, the first-team defense and the first-team offense squared off for eight minutes, sans live tackling, but full speed.

"It was an attitude period," linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "When you give up 200 yards rushing, you're sick to your stomach. There are no words, you're just sick. As a Jets defense, we pride ourselves on what we do, and that right there was unacceptable. It was atrocious.

"We can't let what happened last week happen again. That was bad. If we play like we did last week, these guys will put up 400 yards rushing against us."

Led by Arian Foster, the Texans have the most run-oriented offense in the league, statistically, gashing opponents with their zone-running scheme. But here's a little secret: The Jets have always seen the Texans as an undersized, finesse team that can't take a punch.

The Jets' game plan for the 2009 and 2010 meetings against the Texans was to get physical, using their size and bully mentality to wear them down. If the Jets are as physically and mentally tough as Ryan says, they should be able to hang with the Texans, who, frankly, are a bit overrated.

The question is, can the Jets still be that bully? Their reputation was soiled by last week's disturbing performance, which prompted defense coordinator Mike Pettine to post Rogers' scathing quotes on the big screen in the defensive meeting room.

If that doesn't get their pulse racing, nothing will.

"We've made a mark with this defense and what this defense is all about -- and we have to get back to it," defensive tackle Mike DeVito said.

If the Jets get blown out again, it will be a damning indictment of Ryan and his crisis-management skills. Schilens is right: The outside world expects to see a nationally televised train wreck. To many, the only suspense will be whether Tebow ends the night in the conductor's seat.