The number 503 had some players still shaking their heads inside the Jets’ locker room nearly a week later. As much as the Jets talked about putting it behind them, the sting remained.
Giving up 503 yards last Sunday against the Jaguars is hard to completely move on from or dismiss. Defenses consist of prideful, macho guys who don’t like to be stepped on or run over. But that’s what happened to the Jets last Sunday, and now it’s motivating them.
“If it ain’t fueling you something’s wrong,” linebacker Avery Williamson said. “It’s definitely fueling us. We want to make sure we’re doing the right things and not being a part of the problem.”
The Jets are 1-3 after three straight losses so they have multiple problems. They should be motivated across the board when they open a three-game homsteand Sunday against the Broncos at MetLife Stadium. But the defense is especially looking forward to getting on the field and getting the awful and bitter taste of last week’s performance out of their system.
They were victimized by Jacksonville’s short crossing routes repeatedly in a 31-12 loss. The 503 yards – against Blake Bortles and a team with few playmakers - were the most the Jets have allowed under Todd Bowles and in nearly 10 years.
The defense doesn’t want to put pressure on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to make plays. But that’s what happened last week. The Jaguars scored on all four of their first-half drives and controlled the time of possession
They were embarrassed and disgusted when the dam broke last week, but the Jets also believe it can be a watershed moment for them.
“Any team’s going to respond after that,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We want to succeed and we want to be a great defense and a great team.”
Williamson remembers a game last year when he was with the Titans that altered the course of their season.
They allowed nearly 450 yards of offense in a 57-14 loss to the Texans in Week 4. It was a low point that led to soul searching, but the Titans bounced back to make the playoffs. Williamson sees the same type of pride and resiliency from this team.
“It definitely makes you better,” Williamson said. “It challenges you as a man and as a person. You know you don’t want to be that type of player. I definitely feel it made guys take a step forward.
“We don’t want to be a mediocre team. We want to be great. We care about it and we care about this team. We want to make sure this thing is headed in the right direction.”
The Jets defense could have other things on their mind Sunday outside of football. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers may not be at the game. Rodgers was not at practice Friday due to health issues that Bowles’ described as “serious.” Bowles likely would handle the defensive play-calling in Rodgers’ absence.
But by all accounts, the defense’s focus was heightened this week. They watched film Monday and began fixing the mistakes they made against Jacksonville.
The Jets expect the Broncos, who have the No. 2 rushing attack in the league, to try and exploit what the Jags did. But they say they won’t make the same mistakes.
“We’ve definitely come in this week more focused and more urgent,” linebacker Brandon Copeland said. “We need to change this and get this right, right now. I’m looking forward to it. We had a nice mix of understanding and resetting our mental. But also learning from the past so we can be great this week.”
The Jets made some subtle yet significant changes during the week.
In practice, they fixed their mistakes in real-time rather than when they watched film. They paid more attention to details and made sure everyone knew their role on each play.
They also added a players’ only meeting to their prep work on Friday to try to improve communication and hold each other accountable. Second-year safety Jamal Adams set it up, but he said it was in the works before their lackluster performance last week. It’s something the Jets plan to do every week now.
“We took more pride in the little things,” Jenkins said. “We’re harping on little things and that becomes the standard. You don’t let little things go by and you want to be on top. You don’t want to be the guy making the mental error.
“Now, we’re not going to berate you about it. But you don’t want to be the guy selling out your teammates, making a mental error and not knowing what you’re supposed to do.”
The Broncos have more talent and weapons than Jacksonville, and the Jets will be shorthanded in the secondary.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who was burned last week by Donte Moncrief, is out with a quad strain. Buster Skrine and Darryl Roberts will step in for Johnson and try to help limit Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Case Kennum hasn’t thrown in a touchdown pass in three games.
But the Broncos’ strength is their run game, and their rookie backs have the Jets’ attention. Undrafted Phillip Lindsay averages 5.9 yards per carry and third-round pick Royce Freeman 5.0.
“They’ve got some young guys back there but they’re running with energy, power and passion and they’re running violently,” Jenkins said. “They’re trying to run over anything in their way and they’re not afraid of you.”
Copeland said the defense is going to have to “destroy blocks” to get off and get these quick backs down. But the Jets should have no problem have a little more edge and finding that extra gear after what happened last week.
“They fight back,” Bowles said. “I know they’re tough and mentally tough and we understand the mistakes that we can’t have happen. I think they’ll come back and play.”