C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson present tough matchups for Jets against Buffalo

C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills runs against C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills runs against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Sept. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Each question centered on C.J. Spiller was met with the same response.

The key to stopping the Bills' leading rusher isn't too complex or too involved, the Jets said. Just a straightforward strategy rooted in simple fundamentals.

"We've got to tackle,'' cornerback Antonio Cromartie said.

Despite the hype surrounding rookie quarterbacks Geno Smith and EJ Manuel facing off on Sunday, the key to a Jets victory likely will fall on the shoulders of their defense again.

Smith, the 39th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, is "way ahead of the game in many ways,'' Marty Mornhinweg said. But the Jets' offensive coordinator again stressed "the other fellows have to just jack their game up.''

The Jets' defensive line has done just that, thanks to the aggressive play of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. And the good news for Rex Ryan is that their first-round pick in 2012, Quinton Coples, is expected to play for the first time during this season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The Jets, who have the third-best defense in the NFL, say they've done a poor job of containing Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson in the past.

"We had Spiller and all those guys running all over us [last year],'' Wilkerson said in a radio interview this past week.

In their 48-28 Week 1 romp over the Bills last season, the Jets allowed Spiller to rush for 169 yards (including a 59-yard gain) and a touchdown. In their Week 17 loss in Buffalo, the Jets not only failed to contain Spiller -- who rushed for 59 yards and caught two passes for 72 yards and a touchdown -- but couldn't deal with Johnson, who had six catches for 111 yards.

"He can take the football and put it in the end zone from anywhere on the field,'' Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said of Spiller, who has 304 rushing yards, 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns in six games against the Jets. "He is dynamic, he's fast, he's explosive and you have to pay attention to him.''

Stopping Johnson hasn't been easy, either.

"There are guys that are faster than him, but he gets open,'' Ryan said. "He gets separation. And I think it starts with the way he is at the line of scrimmage. He's a little different but he's excellent at getting off press coverage in particular.''

Johnson is one of the few receivers to have continued success against former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis -- evidenced by his 18 catches for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the five games he played against Revis and the Jets.

And now Revis Island no longer is here.

Cromartie said he spent the past few weeks practically "playing on one hip'' because of a nagging injury but now is feeling the best he has since the first day of training camp.

But when asked this past week in Buffalo about the effect Revis' departure will have on the Jets, Johnson said, "Other guys got to step up.''

He added, "Either the pressure's going to create diamonds or you ain't going to be able to last . . . Cromartie's been to Pro Bowls before, but now it's going to be on the other guys to step up. We'll see what they can do. At the end of the day, I like our guys over theirs.''

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