Robert Saleh said calling plays in his defensive system is so easy that a rhesus monkey could do it. Maybe the Jets should try to put one on the staff.
The Jets' defense has been the worst in the NFL through Week 10 by far. Over the last four weeks, teams have scored 175 points on the Jets. That’s 40 more than the Bills have allowed all season and two fewer than the Patriots — and they haven’t had their bye week.
But Saleh said players are still learning his normally aggressive and attacking defense and he remains confident in coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. Saleh doesn’t believe taking over the play-calling responsibilities is the answer. He said he needs to oversee the entire operation for the 2-7 Jets.
"We’re Year One in the system," Saleh said. "Ulbrich and his staff are trying to figure this out just as well as the players are. They’re going to hit a groove too.
"Am I there to assist? Absolutely. Do I sit in on meetings? Absolutely. Does play-calling change anything? It’s not going to change anything. It’s execution. We always joke that a rhesus monkey can call our defense. It shouldn’t be hard."
Either the system is broken or perhaps the Jets don’t have the right players for it.
It’s predicated on the front four attacking and putting pressure on the quarterbacks and the secondary winning one-on-ones with receivers.
Earlier in the year, the Jets were victimized by checkdowns or dumpoffs that went for chunk plays. Now, teams are embarrassing the Jets in different ways.
Over the last four weeks, the Patriots, Colts and Bills all racked up season highs of offense while scoring 54, 45 and 45 points, respectively, against the Jets.
Saleh, who made his name as a defensive coordinator with the 49ers, has referenced their youth on defense and how many injuries they’ve sustained. It’s true, but the lack of fight and constant breakdowns were not expected from a Saleh-run defense.
"They’re working relentlessly," Saleh said. "They’re going to find a rhythm. They’re going to start getting better. They’re going to connect. It’s just a matter of getting some continuity. We’ve been decimated at safety, decimated at d-end. They’re going to get to the point where there’s some continuity and these guys are going to get better."
The Jets lost edge rusher Carl Lawson in training camp and safeties Marcus Maye and LaMarcus Joyner in-season. Under Saleh and Ulbrich, a full-time coordinator for the first time, the Jets have to adjust to their personnel and not be so set in their ways.
They didn’t double-team Stefon Diggs on Sunday or have their best corner, Bryce Hall, stay with him. Saleh said their corners don’t travel in his scheme. Diggs destroyed the Jets for eight catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Saleh said there were breakdowns in execution, communication and coaching. But Saleh said the Jets’ defense was stout before this ugly four-game stretch, and they have to "recapture those moments" that helped them beat the Titans and Bengals.
"The first six games of the year were not fake," Saleh said. "We didn’t allow over 30 points, we were playing good in the run game, in the red zone, third down. All of it was pretty darn good so I know it’s in there. It’s just a matter of tying it all back together, getting some continuity, getting back to the basics of playing ball."
Hall said the defense takes losses like Buffalo "personally." Linebacker Jarrad Davis said the players have to communicate more, even with the coaches, and make sure everyone understands their role.
"Right now," Davis said, "we’re all trying to make sure we’re not just doing what we think we should be doing, but what’s going to help us get back in the winning column and win games on a consistent basis.
"Some things that we have been doing as players have not been working. We've just got to be smarter and take that time to become more aware and more in tune with what it is that we’re doing that’s working and what it is that we’re doing that’s wasting our time."
The Jets signed tight end Kenny Yeboah and cornerback Rachad Wildgoose to the active roster, and placed cornerback Brandin Echols (quad) on injured reserve. They also signed linebacker Corey Thompson and wide receiver Keelan Doss to the practice squad, and placed linebacker Noah Dawkins on practice squad IR.