Banged-up Jets hit hard in practice for Houston Texans

Joe McKnight runs wide around the end while

Joe McKnight runs wide around the end while being pursued out by DB D'Anton Lynn, (41), CB Julian Posey (21) and CB Donnie Fletcher (34). (Aug. 6, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

Their bodies were bruised and fatigued, but they welcomed the pain.

For those eight minutes, the Jets were transported back to Cortland -- the sounds of helmets cracking and pads crunching cutting through the air, just like it was in training camp.

Rex Ryan dubbed it "nosebleed Wednesday," as Thursday's practice felt more like the first day of field preparation for their upcoming opponent. But if the Jets aren't careful, their next game might be christened the "Monday Night Massacre."

Helmets will be cracking for real at MetLife Stadium when the Jets face their stiffest competition yet, the Houston Texans (4-0), in front of a national TV audience. J.J. Watt, the AFC Defensive Player of the Month, will make it his job to obliterate Mark Sanchez. And Arian Foster will try to do what other backs have done so far: run right through the Jets defense.

The unit is ranked 21st overall and is 31st against the run. Conversely, the Jets (2-2) own the 24th-best rushing attack in the league, churning out just 86.5 yards per game.

So, at the suggestion of offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, Rex Ryan added an extra practice period Thursday that featured the first-team defense vs. the first-team offense in primarily run plays. "We put guys out there and just put the ball down and said let's have at it," the Jets coach said.

Players did not live tackle during the drill, according to Ryan, but the sheer physicality of the exercise was a welcome test for a defense that had its heart and commitment questioned by 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers after last week's 34-0 loss.

"We needed to get back to playing that smash-mouth football," linebacker Garrett McIntyre said. "We have to go back to playing the way that Jets are supposed to play: flying around, hitting guys every play, hearing the pads crack every play. That's what you heard."

As for the Jets' offense, the receiving corps was suspect before Santonio Holmes' season-ending Lisfranc injury, and now there are even greater concerns about their depth with tight end Dustin Keller and rookie receiver Stephen Hill not expected to play for a second straight game. Keller hasn't played since Week 1.

But guys such as Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Jeff Cumberland, still are confident they can get the job done.

"I think that's been the question since Day 1, though: How are we going to make this happen?" Kerley said. "We definitely got a chip on our shoulder. We know we have playmakers among ourselves.

"Santonio was obviously a great receiver, prime-time-type receiver. But he's down. And if he was here, he would tell us the same thing: just lean on each other and make sure everything gets handled the way it would be handled if he were here."

Receiver Jason Hill, who was signed Wednesday without having worked out for the Jets, still is getting acclimated to his new surroundings. But he said he has no concerns about his new receiving corps.

"They're all young," said Hill, 27, who shared a meal Saturday with Sanchez, Kerley and four other receivers, two of whom are on the practice squad. "But they can play. It's as simple as that."

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