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Jets' defense appears to need more work

Jets strong safety Dawan Landry takes down Jacksonville

Jets strong safety Dawan Landry takes down Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Brown after the reception in the first half. (Aug. 17, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Even in the excitement of a blowout victory, this must have been unsettling to Jets fans, as it was to coach Rex Ryan:

They had just watched the offense work a well-executed touchdown drive, moving the ball efficiently and easily in three minutes.

Then they watched the offense work a well-executed touchdown drive, moving the ball efficiently and easily in less than three minutes. But this time the offense was the Jaguars' -- and it moved 80 yards against the Jets' defense.

"You can tell, when the intensity's there, you're going to tackle . . . You're going to do all those things that epitomizes the New York Jets' defense," Ryan said. "And quite honestly, we struggled with that."

That was the Jets' first-team defense, against an offense that ranked 30th last season.

Ryan raised some eyebrows earlier this year when he announced he would give extra attention to the defense and handle the play-calling. Why, with an offense that clearly has regressed and has question marks? Because this defense, too, has regressed and now also has question marks.

In 2009, the Jets held opponents to 14.8 points per game, which earned them the distinction of the league's best defense. But there has been a gradual decline since.

They did rank eighth last season . . . in yards allowed. Somewhat overlooked, though, is that the unit gave up 23.4 points per game. True, the defense often was in unfavorable situations after short drives and 37 turnovers. But ranking 20th in points allowed is far from elite.

There have been questions for years about the effectiveness of the pass rush. And now there are questions about the back end, with a revamped secondary and rookie Dee Milliner penciled in at cornerback.

"I never liked the way we competed and challenged on the outside, not as much [Antonio] Cromartie," Ryan said, referring to Milliner, who had his difficulties in coverage. "But from Dee, when we call it, I want you to get up there. I'm banking on you. Let's go."

And the front seven did little to disrupt the Jaguars' quarterbacks in the first half, aside from Quinton Coples' free rush of Chad Henne that resulted in an incompletion.

Yes, this was a preseason game, and the final score counts for little more than a game of Madden. But the performances matter, and they should for a team looking to convince fans that they've improved greatly from last year's 6-10 record.

"They used some hurry-up offense against us and we weren't expecting that, but that's no excuse," Cromartie said. "We're gonna get a lot of [hurry-up] from teams and we have to be on our P's and Q's."

After the Jets went up 7-0 on their opening drive, Blaine Gabbert answered 2:50 later. He hit Ace Sanders for 35 yards on a skinny post and Maurice Jones-Drew for 20 on a swing pass before finding Allen Reisner wide open for a 5-yard score.

On their next possession, after moving the ball with ease during a 6:12 drive that went 75 yards on 18 plays, the Jaguars stalled at the 5 and settled for a tying field goal. Second-year receiver Justin Blackmon beat Milliner twice on quick out routes to get the Jags out of a first-and-20 hole.

"This defense can be good," Cromartie said. "It's all about how we prepare and how we execute. We have to go back, regroup and make sure we do the things we need to do.''

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