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Robert Saleh sees reason for optimism with Jets' struggling run game

Jets running back Michael Carter is tackled during

Jets running back Michael Carter is tackled during the first half of an NFL game between the Jets and the Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London on Oct. 10. Credit: AP/Ian Walton

Robert Saleh thinks it’s a matter of time. While the first five games of the season have ably exposed the Jets' deficiencies, there’s perhaps one that stands out as a pivotal reason for their slow start both in-game and in-season: the weakness of their run game.

However, although the Jets are second-to-last in rushing yards per game (74) and have only managed a feeble 173 yards total in their last three games, Saleh said Monday that he’s seen reason for optimism in his offensive line’s play, and that if they continue to adhere to their structure, their fortunes there are bound to turn.

The Jets' system, he said, always has been predicated on the grind — similar to what the Titans are employing, though that team is doing it to much greater effect. That, for him, looks like small gains preceding larger ones. It should look like a war of attrition, though so far this season, it’s looked like a losing game of tug-of-war instead.

"It’s just they wear on people, but they’re able to wear on people because they get plays, they get snaps," he said of the Titans, who are averaging 69.5 plays per game, fourth in the league (the Jets average 58.6, second-worst). "So, our offense is third-down conversions, possessing the ball, moving the chains, those give opportunities to run the ball more . . . Obviously, we’re turning the ball over at inopportune times. But it comes with opportunity and I think once the structure’s there, they’re getting better at it. It’s definitely not showing. I’m not going to argue with you on that one, but we feel really good about our O-line and where it’s at, and it’s only going to get better."

They’ll have an opportunity this Sunday in a rematch against the Patriots, the last team they were really able to establish the run against this season. They amassed 152 yards against them in September in a game Saleh brought up as an example of what his offense is capable of.

In fact, he said, he’s heartened by what the Jets have been able to do up front in general. Their pass protection is decidedly middle of the pack, while the defensive line has been more effective.

They’re "very, very good playing with a lot of energy, a lot of just overpowering teams, overpowering their opponent," Saleh said.

"We saw it in London [against the Falcons, where we] got an offensive coordinator to completely change the way he calls a game, because of our D-line, to keep away from our D-line," he added. "So that’s where the chess match comes in our ability to change. I think it’s starting to get established. I know it’s hard to see right now, but I think in the trenches, I feel like we’ve been the better team, with the exception of those first couple of weeks, but it’s been coming along, and I think our guys are starting to understand where we’re going to make hay and where we’re going to win football games."

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