This early in the season, statistics are inconsequential for Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.
Rather than fixate now over numbers, the Jets defensive line coach prefers to review stat sheets at the end of the season. Still, he admitted Thursday that he's never had a defensive line give up an average 148.6 rushing yards a game.
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"We've got to find a way to get this straight," he said during a break from meetings.
But, Dunbar was quick to add: "Our main thing here is production." Ask any coach in the Jets organization and they'll tell you their 2-1 record -- and top spot in the AFC East -- are the best indicators of their production. But Sunday, they face their toughest challenge of the season: a 49ers team that can beat opponents in the air and on the ground. Jim Harbaugh's team plays physical and fast, and worst of all for the Jets -- the 49ers are coming off an uninspired 24-13 loss to the Vikings, in which they had three turnovers (including Alex Smith's first interception in a team-record 249 passes).
After totaling 334 rushing yards in their first two games, the 49ers churned out just 89 against Minnesota. And Rex Ryan knows this week, Harbaugh will be hard-pressed to get Frank Gore (88 yards per game) going again.
San Francisco ranks seventh in the league in rushing yards per game (141) and third in yards per attempt (5.4). But mention those statistics to Dunbar and he's quick to point out data of his own. "You could be San Francisco last year -- plus-28 in turnovers. They led the league in keeping the ball and taking it away.
"But who won the Super Bowl last year?" he said, playfully. "So what do stats tell you about that?"
The Jets stopped the Steelers run game in Week 2, but allowed 195 rushing yards against the Bills and 185 last week in Miami. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said their run-defense struggles are due to alignment and technique issues, adding: "Guys trying to make plays that weren't there and it cost us a few times."
For a team that devoted so much of its draft-day focus to the defensive line in recent years, the Jets pass rush has been dormant. They've registered just three sacks in three games and two of those were courtesy of backup Garrett McIntyre on Ben Roethlisberger. But Dunbar said the Steelers quarterback was an easier target because he holds onto the ball longer than Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick or Miami's Ryan Tannehill. "After 2.5, 2.7 seconds, the ball is gone," he said.
Ultimately, "sacks will get you paid, but disrupting the quarterback will get us some wins," said the defensive line coach, who spent the past six seasons in Minnesota with Jared Allen and Pat and Kevin Williams. "Now, if we can get those sacks, we'll take them. But we're not going to get our head down because we're not getting sacks."
Clearly, defensive improvements are needed if the Jets want to remain atop their division. But the only stat that matters to their coaching staff, at least for now, is their overall record.
"I rather give up 148 yards a game rushing and be 2-1, than give up 50 yards rushing and be 0-3," Dunbar said with a smile. "Statistics? Please."