The lack of perimeter speed on defense was a concern for the Jets last season, and coach Rex Ryan still can’t be sure the problem was addressed fully by the club’s offseason changes. Although the Jets built a 41-7 lead in the opener against Buffalo, reserve Bills running back C.J. Spiller came on to gash them for 169 yards on 14 carries, including a 56-yard touchdown run.
So, the red flags are up for the run defense this Sunday in Miami against Dolphins running back Reggie Bush, who led a 35-13 rout of Oakland last week with 172 yards on 25 carries. On Thursday, Ryan compared Spiller’s game to the one Raiders running back Darren McFadden had against the Jets last season.
“McFadden lit us up a little bit, but you know what?” Ryan said. “This year, Spiller did, too. I think speed kills. It’s hard to defend. I do think we’re better equipped to play it with some of the speed we’ve added. Having LaRon Landry back there running a 4.3 helps. We recognize it. And our technique contributed to some of those runs. But with Reggie Bush, you kind of hold your breath until the game’s over. He does have game-breaking speed.”
Following the Buffalo game, the Jets emphasized tackling because they missed several against Spiller when they had him lined up in their sights. But it’s hard to simulate in practice because teams only are in full pads once a week, and they don’t like to beat up their own players.
Explaining why Spiller made them look bad, Ryan said, “We had several hits on Spiller in the backfield, but we just weren’t bringing him down. We were up 41-7, and we lost some focus and intensity and he was able to make some big plays on us. We have to be prepared. That can’t happen against a back like Reggie Bush.”
Last week in Pittsburgh, the Jets limited the Steelers to just 66 yards rushing despite losing 27-10. But they have a different challenge against a run-heavy Dolphins team that truly practices a ground-and-pound philosophy to help protect rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.