FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jets safety Jamal Adams wants respect.
He’s getting it from his peers, from Pro Bowl voters, and from opposing coaches. But apparently he’s not getting enough.
“I push myself to a higher standard,” he said.
The play of the second-year safety has been the most encouraging aspect of another otherwise disappointing season for the Jets (3-8), who have lost five straight games.
Adams has been the Jets’ best player, and he’s starting to get the recognition for his versatility, performance and leadership on the field. But he isn’t satisfied, which is another positive for the franchise.
The young captain and leader is driven to be great. He plays every game with extreme passion and fire and isn’t allowing himself to get worn down by the losing.
“Jamal is right up there with some of the best safeties in the league,” defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson said. “He’s making a ton of plays. He’s playing hard. He’s playing physical. He brings so much energy to the game, to the team. He’s doing a hell of a job.”
Adams has improved in all areas of the game, especially his coverage of tight ends. Much was made last year about Adams’ struggles against them, particularly Rob Gronkowski, who is a matchup nightmare for every team. He has been asked this season about covering Gronkowski, and he seemed bothered by it.
Adams wanted to answer the questions on the field, and he played Gronkowski tough in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. He knocked a pass out of Gronkowski’s hands with a hard hit and held him to a short gain on another play. (Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass, but Adams wasn’t covering him at the time.)
The next day, Adams tweeted, “You don’t have to like me, but you will respect me.” He posted a picture of himself wrapping up Gronkowski in the tweet.
Adams believes some still aren’t giving him that respect.
“I can sit here and give my opinion about something, but everybody else is going to have their opinion,” he said. “It’s the world. It’s just how it happens. It just is what it is. It’s part of the game. It’s part of my profession.”
There’s no debating Adams’ importance to the Jets, who hope to end their losing streak Sunday in Tennessee. Opposing coaches often mention Adams first when discussing the Jets’ defense. Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted that Adams is like a linebacker. The Jets have lined him up all over the field.
Adams is second on the team in total tackles (77) and solo tackles (57) and is tied with Leonard Williams for the team lead with eight tackles for loss. Adams has forced two fumbles and has 1 1⁄2 sacks and an interception.
“Jamal can do everything,” Wilson said.
Adams could earn a spot on the Pro Bowl team. He’s the leading vote-getter for strong safety in the AFC, and making the team would mean a lot to him.
“I’m not going to sit here and say it doesn’t,” he said. “That’s definitely been a dream of mine to make the Pro Bowl. Am I focused on it? No. But if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
When asked if he believes he deserves to make it, Adams wouldn’t lobby for himself.
“Working on it,” he said.
Right now, winning is most important for Adams. The Jets’ last win was Oct. 14 against the Colts.
The losing has frustrated him, and he has voiced that — emphatically — at times. But he was very slow and deliberate when he was asked what a win over the Titans would mean.
“Ev-ery-thing,” Adams said. “Everything. We need it. We need it.”