The Jets have problems on both sides of the ball, but the most alarming may be the amount of big plays the secondary has allowed. And with the high-flying, big-play passing attack of the Steelers (3-1) next on the docket, Gang Green will need to shore up those deficiencies in a hurry.
The Jets (1-3) travel to Pittsburgh with a plethora of problems in stopping opponents’ deep passing attacks. Sunday’s loss to Seattle featured four different passing plays where wideouts garnered at least 27 yards on a reception. And for the year, New York’s once-vaunted secondary has yielded eight passing plays of at least 40 yards – including at least one reception over 25 yards in every game.
Head coach Todd Bowles’s background is defensive, as he is a former NFL safety and a former secondary coach, so watching his secondary getting gashed on a weekly basis must be haunting him.
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He admitted the breakdowns in coverage have been “alarming.”
“You can call it busts. I don’t know if there’s been as many at the same time, but overall during the course of the year you’ve seen certain plays like that,” Bowles said. “We’ve had way too many.”
The Steelers have playmakers everywhere, including three elite talents – quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell, who is the closest thing to Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as a dual-threat back. They also have Sammie Coates, who is raw, but still a big-chunk wideout. The second-year receiver is Roethlisberger’s top deep threat right now, and that includes Brown, as the former Auburn Tiger has notched four-straight games with at least one catch of 40 or more yards.
Add to the fact that cornerback Darrelle Revis is hobbled with a mild hamstring strain, and this is about as bad a matchup as the Jets will see all season. This is the same Pittsburgh passing attack that’s gashed just about every secondary they’ve seen in recent years – including elite units like the Denver Broncos, last season, and a Kansas City Chiefs outfit that got routed, 43-14, just a week before.
Those are the same Chiefs that blew out the Jets the previous week, when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick redefined the term pick-six. Bowles said it is too early to tell whether Revis will be available for Sunday’s game, and likely didn’t provide any confidence to panicky Jets fans when he said if Revis can’t go, he’ll turn to Darryl Roberts, who has not played yet, and Bryson Keeton, who could be brought up from the practice squad to fill the void.
All of the aforementioned variables should mean that the Steelers should put a hurting on the reeling Jets’ secondary.
But for Bowles, he realized no one is going to feel sorry for them, and noted that guys just need to play better, or he’ll have to pull players out and give someone else a chance. The NFL, he reasoned, is always about performing or getting the next man up and ready.
“We’ll look at it [changes in personnel] and evaluate day by day,” Bowles reasoned. “But I don’t think they’re issues from a communication stand point that they don’t know. I think it’s issues where some guys aren’t as vocal when they need to be. Those are things that can easily be cleaned up. … It’s a different guy every time [making mistakes]. Things will be shaken up as we go forward.”
Bowles will need the breakdowns to be kept at a minimum if they’re to have a chance at upsetting the Steelers, while also trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak of his tenure.
Gang Green notes:
-The Jets were primarily a 3-4 defense (three linemen and four linebackers), last season, but have dabbled more than a little bit in the 4-3 base, this season. The biggest change could come with personnel shifts. They used defensive end Sheldon Richardson at outside linebacker a few times against the Seahawks, so that could be a look they give again on Sunday.
-The Jets signed safety Ronald Martin to the practice squad and released fullback Julian Howsare to make room for him. The 10-man practice squad now consists of Martin, guard Craig Watts, linebacker Freddie Bishop, cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Bryson Keeton, safety Doug Middleton, linebackers Victor Ochi and Julian Sanford, running back Brandon Wilds, and former Giants wideout Myles White.