- Rich Cimini, ESPN New York Jets reporter
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets can't buy a takeaway. Or can they? Two members of the turnover-starved secondary, Antonio Cromartie and Ed Reed, showed up Thursday in the locker room wearing identical black T-shirts that featured an old Western "Wanted" poster on the front.
The shirt includes a picture of a football and the words: "WANTED: In the air or on the ground. $20,000."
In the post-BountyGate world, the shirt may cause a raised eyebrow or two. Cromartie said he got the shirt from Reed, who told reporters: "No, I'm not offering 20 grand for a turnover. I like how you tried to work that. It's a shirt, man. I like how you did that. It's funny how you guys twist our words."
The words were appropriate, considering the Jets have only seven takeaways this season (five interceptions and two fumble recoveries), tied with the San Diego Chargers for the fewest in the league. They've actually forced seven fumbles in the last five games, but didn't recover any of them.
The Jets are hoping to reverse the turnover trend Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, as quarterback Joe Flacco already has a career-high 13 interceptions. No one knows Flacco better than Reed, his teammate for five seasons. They won a Super Bowl together last season.
"I honestly can't answer that question," said Reed, asked about Flacco's interception problem. "Sometimes it's about decision-making, sometimes it's about situations. I have no clue why Flac has been struggling a little bit, but he's also had some success. It's a growing process. Flacco is still young and he's still got a lot of growth to go through."
The Jets signed Reed last week after he was waived by the Houston Texans, hoping he could bring a play-making dimension to the secondary. Despite only two practices, he started against the Buffalo Bills, receiving word only seconds before the defense took the field.
It was a nondescript game for the likely Hall of Famer, who didn't make any plays on the ball. He downplayed his second return to Baltimore, where he played 11 seasons and made nine Pro Bowls. After missing the first two games with a hip injury, he made his Texans debut in Baltimore in Week 3.
Asked if it would be sweet to make an interception against his old team, Reed smiled and said: "Ask me after the game when I pick one."
Reed said all he wants is a win, noting that he hasn't experienced a victory since the Super Bowl. The Texans were 0-7 with him in the lineup, the Jets 0-1.
"He looks like the same guy to me," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who once coached Reed with the Ravens. "He flowed right back in."
Even with Reed, the secondary allowed four long completions, continuing a bad trend. The Jets have surrendered 33 pass plays of at least 20 yards. At the current pace, they will finish with their highest total since 1989.
Hardly what you'd expect from a defense once known for its strong secondary play. But those days are gone, and so is star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Coach Rex Ryan has made it a point of emphasis. In fact, they spent extra time on the field Thursday practicing "Buddy Ryan drills," as Ryan likes to call them. He named them after his father, drills designed to help defenders improve their coverage technique against deep balls.
Reed said he takes it as a personal challenge to help the team improve in that area, and he spoke to the secondary on that very subject. Reed, the active interception leader with 61, hasn't come close to an interception.
"It's tough, man, when the ball isn't coming as close to you as it used to," he said. "It's a respect thing."
Ed Reed is hoping his new T-shirts can spark the Jets toward forcing turnovers.