- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
- 0 Shares
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Whether Darrelle Revis did or did not have the ACL injury that will almost surely end his season now, whether the New York Jets lost to the Miami Dolphins instead of picking up an ugly win, the takeaway from Sunday's game wouldn't change: The Jets are what we thought they were. Limited. Flawed. With obvious personnel problems, which were causing them to leak oil all over the field even when Revis, their best player, was still healthy.
That's what their uneven performance in Sunday's overtime escape continued to prove, even before Rex Ryan revisited the game Monday after learning just five minutes before he stepped to the podium that an MRI had just confirmed Revis will need ACL surgery.
Once Ryan began speaking -- in downbeat tones at first -- the Jets' coach said what you'd expect. He unspooled a low-key preview of the pep talk he would be giving his players in a few minutes, and began laying down the path he's going to hack out to lead the way.
Ryan is good at that kind of thing. With Revis out, Ryan immediately becomes the most important piece of the Jets' defense. Whether Kyle Wilson, Revis' replacement, is ready for his closeup is just a subplot. The Jets' best hope of finding a true difference-maker that's already on the current roster is Ryan -- because, as a defensive coordinator, Ryan really is that good.
But here's the problem: The longer Ryan took more general questions about the state of his team, the more all the other holes the Jets have already been trying to plug -- even when Revis was still around -- were laid bare too. It was like holding up a flashlight behind a slice of Swiss cheese.
Under direct but not rigorous questioning, Ryan was repeatedly led into acknowledging myriad other concerns. Most of them trace back to how the Jets' personnel simply isn't as good as it was when Ryan first got to town. Of course, Ryan didn't put it that way. In fact, he said the exact opposite, insisting, "We have enough here to get it done. We have great football players. And it's going to take everybody we have."
What else could he say? What was more revealing was when he went on to allow all this:
• Ryan is taken aback at the bad chain reaction now afflicting his defense. He detailed how the Jets can't stop the run well enough, which contributes to their inability to pressure the quarterback, which is connected to their inability to stop other teams from converting on third down. "I don't think I've ever gone through a stage like this right now," Ryan said. The hope that Aaron Maybin or first-round pick Quinton Coples would help the pass rush hasn't panned out. And Ryan acknowledged that solving all those problems becomes only more urgent with the San Francisco 49ers and then the Houston Texans, arguably the NFL's two best teams, just ahead.
• Santonio Holmes (147 yards on nine often terrific catches) finally had his first 100-yard receiving day in 28 games, a span stretching back to 2010. But hold the redemption stories, said LaDainian Tomlinson, the former Jet turned NFL Network analyst, who still won't let Holmes forget how he quit on the Jets on the same Miami field in their season finale last year. Tomlinson ripped Holmes yet again Sunday on TV, predicting, "When you play with a guy that has quit on you, you know that when the times are tough he will quit on you again."
We'll see. For now, the Jets have more urgent concerns. Stephen Hill, the rookie wideout they're starting on the other side of the field, finished his second straight game without a catch. He again dropped what should've been a touchdown pass, and now he also has a hamstring injury. Even if that hadn't happened, Hill might have found himself sharing more time with Chaz Schillens and especially Jeremy Kerley, who scored a long TD for the second straight game.
• Remember that ground-and-pound attack Ryan wanted to predicate the entire offense on? So far it has been as ineffective as this year's other big offensive innovation, the Tebow Wildcat, which the New York Daily News has taken to calling the "Wildcatastrophe." (Wish I'd thought of that.)
Supposed feature back Shonn Greene is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry, and is already starting to see his carries given to other backs. Matt Slauson is now splitting time at guard with Vladimir Ducasse. When Tebow -- who is now lining up more often as a receiver -- finally did get a ball thrown his way Sunday, Sanchez's pass bounced off his helmet. Sanchez later admitted that the importance of the situation (third-and-3 in the third quarter) and the defense ("probably not the best read") probably didn't warrant him throwing the ball to Tebow at all. "They covered it better than I thought," Sanchez said.
• Sanchez continues to stumble and bumble. He admitted he felt "off" and said "it just wasn't there" Sunday. But being a stand-up guy who keeps saying, "I left plays on the field," wore thin long ago. It's hard to rate Sanchez's performance when he has so little reliable help and he was hit seven times (although sacked only once) by the Dolphins. Like the defense, it's another one of those leg-bone-connected-to-the-thigh-bone conundrums: Has he been lousy the past six quarters because he's so average? Because there's no robust running game? Because of an offensive line that's giving up too many free runs at him? Because the team keeps getting stuck in obvious passing situations?
Against the Dolphins, receivers got open and he badly misfired on what could have been big plays. Which suggests the problem is all of the above.
Cast against all that, the anecdotes and embroidery Ryan added around his basic message -- that the Jets are going to have to "step it up" without Revis -- was nostalgic and colorful and all that. He meant it to be stirring when someone asked him if he finally had an "oh no" moment when he got the bad news, and he said, "Never happens." So he's taking this as a personal challenge? "Ab-so-lutely," Ryan said, tilting up his chin.
But when Ryan stood there telling stories of how he managed when his Baltimore Ravens' defenses had "a once-in-a-lifetime player in Ray Lewis go down for 10 weeks once. And Ed Reed followed it up by going down for five weeks," what he willfully ignored is that there isn't one player among the Jets' current front seven who is as good as the players Ryan still had left on that Ravens defense. And the same goes for his entertaining description of how there are different ways for his defense to "skin a cat" and stay aggressive, even without Revis. Why, look at what his old man did once upon a time, Ryan said.
"The most aggressive defense in the history of the National Football League was the Bears back when my dad was there, and he played with three college safeties and a college receiver from Yale, you know -- that was how his back end was made up," Ryan said. "So, we may be more aggressive."
Well yeah. But again, those Bears teams had Hall of Fame pass rushers Richard Dent and Dan Hampton, and a linebacker named Mike Singletary.
And, for all his talk about having enough talent in-house right now, Ryan also allowed that there could be "multiple" roster moves coming soon.
See where this is headed?
"We know we have to get a thousand times better," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We haven't been good enough."
The Jets are what we thought they were, all right.
With or without Revis, they're a so-so team still searching for itself. They're a team that's going to find every game a heroic struggle to win, even if they did magically wake up with a 2-1 record Monday with the added good news that longtime nemesis New England is at least no longer automatic anymore, given their loss to Arizona that left an angry Bill Belichick yanking on the arm of a replacement ref after the Pats dropped to 1-2.
"We're first in our division," Ryan made sure to drop in.
Which is true enough.
The Jets better enjoy it while they can.
Losing Darrelle Revis is just one of many problems the Jets have right now.