C.J. Mosley hated spending the last month just watching the Jets from the sideline, but the truth is he did a lot more than just watch.
The Jets inside linebacker was heavily involved in the game plan and preparation each week. His voice was heard in meetings, video sessions, on the sidelines and his defensive coordinator’s ears.
Mosley is one of the Jets’ captains and he embraced that role during his four-game absence because of a groin injury. He became an acting coach, wearing the headset during practices and games to stay sharp and offered words of advice, encouragement and in some cases criticism.
The Jets defensive play-caller returned Monday night against the undefeated Patriots. His coaches believe all the work and he did while rehabbing will pay off for him and the Jets.
“There’s no slow-down process of getting the feel back of making the calls because he was doing that like a coach anyway,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “He wore the headset every day in practice. He criticized me constantly if I made the call wrong.”
The Jets hoped Mosley would have a similar impact as Sam Darnold’s return did last week in a victory over Dallas. Coach Adam Gase likened Mosley’s return to “as impactful as getting a starting quarterback back.”
The offense looked totally different with Darnold running it again after a three-week break because of mono. But it had nowhere to go but up after an awful start to the season.
The defense has played relatively well. Mosley should only bolster it.
He and running back Le’Veon Bell were the Jets’ two main offseason signings. They were brought in with beating and eventually overtaking the Patriots in mind.
New England’s run has to end eventually. Tom Brady is 42. He and Bill Belichick can’t rule the NFL forever. The Jets are trying to build a young team with stars who can grow together and become a perennial playoff team.
Mosley and Bell are both 27. Safety Jamal Adams is 24. Darnold is 22. They all played Monday night for just the second time this season. That’s why, despite an 0-4 start, the Jets believe they have enough talent and season left to make a run.
After playing New England, the combined record of the Jets’ last 10 opponents is 21-44.
“Just to have everybody healthy, that’s how you compete and how you win games,” Adams said.
Mosley will be a big part of that. The coaches raved about his ability to read formations and change calls at the line of scrimmage and of course make plays, which he showed in the Jets’ one-point season-opening loss to Buffalo.
The Jets had four takeaways, a touchdown and a safety with Mosley in the game. He returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble. After Mosley left late in the third quarter, the Bills scored 14 fourth-quarter points.
That was the last time he played in a game, but not the last time he made an impact.
Williams told Mosley to run a player-only defensive meeting each week. He’s been doing it all year even while he was injured. It takes place in a “virtual reality room” and Mosley has cut-ups prepared of opposing offenses. They simulate a game with play calls and everything.
“The middle linebacker position is an extension of the coordinator in what we do,” Williams said. “He has done an outstanding job. He has been a coach on gameday, I assign him certain things to do and he has been remarkable on how he has been that voice.”
Williams has “empowered” his players and given them ownership, and he’s done a tremendous job of getting the most of a group that has dealt with its own share of injuries and adversity.
“He’s definitely a player’s coach,” Mosley said. “He’s always going to get the best out of you because he’s going to give us his best. That’s the same way he coaches, and that’s the same he tries to teach us in the classroom.
“When guys go on their field and give their all, if they’re hurt or not, that’s kind of for him because that’s the respect we have for him and that’s the respect we have for each other on the defensive side. We want to be a great defense and we want to lead this team to victory every week.”
Their chances are much better with Mosley wearing a helmet instead of a headset.