FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The Jets have the luxury of low expectations this season, so 3-4 seems about right for a team with a quarterback riding the inevitable ups and downs of a rookie season.
But no one wants to go down the path the 2017 team did, when like this season a 3-3 record turned into 3-4, but then it veered completely off track to a 5-11 finish.
Hence the importance of Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago, and why after practice Friday defensive lineman Leonard Williams said this:
“Yeah, definitely crunch time. We’re in midseason. We’re right in the middle of it, and at the same time it’s right there for us to take, and it’s right there for us to lose . . . We can’t let it slip away from us.”
The Bears (3-3) are no juggernaut, but the Jets’ degree of difficulty rose on Friday when their official injury report was released, and it confirmed most of the week’s worst suspicions.
Of particular concern is Sam Darnold’s receiving corps. Quincy Enunwa (ankle) is out and Robby Anderson (ankle) is doubtful. So to whom will the Jets look beyond veteran Jermaine Kearse?
“Well, we only have but so many,” coach Todd Bowles said. “[Deontay] Burnett, [Andre] Roberts. We've got [Charone] Peake and we've got [Rishard] Matthews. So those guys are going to have to step up.”
Those players have a combined four receptions for 34 yards for the Jets this season. (Matthews had three catches for 11 as a Titan earlier this season.)
“The key is just guys being opportunistic,” Kearse said. “That’s the biggest thing and the most important thing. When you get your opportunity, it’s time to shine.”
It is unclear how much the running game can help with Bilal Powell lost for the season to a neck injury.
Center Spencer Long (knee/finger) did not practice all week and is listed as questionable, as is left tackle Kelvin Beachum (back).
On defense, cornerback Trumaine Johnson (quad) is doubtful, but there was promising news elsewhere. Cornerback Buster Skrine returned to full practice after passing the league’s concussion protocol, and safety Marcus Maye (thumb) was a limited presence in practice and is questionable.
“Good to go, 100 percent,” Skrine said.
As for the spate of injuries, Skrine said, “That’s any NFL team. Players get hurt. It’s midway through the season. It’s nothing new.”
Williams said the coaches did a good job during the week “trying to take care of our bodies” by focusing more on the mental aspect of the game.
“It’s hard to deal with injuries,” he said, “but they’re kind of inevitable.”
Notes & quotes: Khalil Mack, the Bears’ star, pass-rushing linebacker, was limited in practice on Friday and is questionable with an ankle injury . . . Williams on dealing with Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky: “He actually looks like a runner when he’s running. He doesn’t just look like a fast quarterback.”