FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Bad teams often get caught up in chicken-and-egg debates about what went wrong. This week provided a prime example in the case of the Jets’ defense.
Logically, one might point to the touted defensive line on a team that has produced a paltry 20 sacks. Not so fast, end Muhammad Wilkerson said Thursday, asserting that the total would be higher if the secondary had provided better coverage.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about sacks, it’s disruption,” he said. “I feel like we got some hits on [Andrew] Luck, but just one step, he got the ball out. So maybe a little tighter coverage, we get those sacks.”
Darrelle Revis, the team’s most famous and frequently criticized cornerback, did not make himself available to reporters after practice Friday, but fellow cornerback Buster Skrine did. He parried several invitations to fire back at Wilkerson.
“You’ll probably have to go ask Mo why he said that, but it could be tighter on the back end,” he said. Was he upset by Wilkerson’s comments? “No, Mo is my guy.”
Skrine said the secondary had been playing better recently until Monday night’s 41-10 loss to the Colts, when it “laid an egg,” including apparent miscommunications that left tight end Dwayne Allen alone for two first-quarter touchdowns.
“I really don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “We just haven’t been as tight as we need to be this year. We’re taking full responsibility for it.”
The Jets rank 24th in pass defense at 264.4 yards per game and have only 13 sacks in the 11 games since they had seven in the opener against the Bengals. They are second-to-last in turnover differential (minus-17) and have only six interceptions.
“We just haven’t been making any plays on the ball,” Skrine said. “We just have to play better on the back end, let’s put it that way. As a team, as a defense, we have to play better.”
When advised that his Thursday comments might be taken as a criticism of his secondary mates, Wilkerson sought to clarify himself by casting a wider net.
“Those guys are working their tails off each and every week, every day in practice and in the game, and they try to do the best they can, just like we try to do the best we can up front,” he said. “So it’s not me calling nobody out. Like I said, we all know we can do better — myself, the whole team.”
Notes & quotes: Wilkerson (ankle) is questionable for Sunday’s game against the 49ers. These players are out: safety Antonio Allen, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, receiver Jalin Marshall, linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, defensive tackle Steve McLendon and running back Khiry Robinson . . . The Jets left for California on Friday. Coach Todd Bowles said he has experienced both travel strategies for a West Coast game — leaving Friday or Saturday. “You win the game it’s good, you lose the game it’s bad,” he said . . . Bowles called the ankle injury that landed center Nick Mangold on injured reserve “pretty significant” but was unsure whether it will require surgery. Bowles said the team has learned to play without Mangold but that losing him is a “blow from a leadership standpoint . . . You just feel sorry for the man.” . . . Mangold’s replacement, Wesley Johnson, said he does not view the last four games as an audition for a post-Mangold era. “I really want to beat the 49ers; that’s the focus right now,” he said . . . The Jets will have a new starting quarterback this week, flipping Bryce Petty and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rookie Christian Hackenberg remains third string. He said he has benefited from taking more scout team repetitions in recent weeks. “You’re going against a live defense,” he said. “You’re making throws, you’re seeing things. Obviously, you’re reading it off a card, but that’s been good, just being able to get those types of throws and get those reps against our [number] one defense.” What does he expect from Petty on Sunday and beyond? “I know he’s preparing as hard as he can, and I know he’s going to let it fly. That’s just how he is. So I’m excited to watch him.”