FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jets coach Todd Bowles got irritated by a line of questioning regarding his team’s inferior pass rush on Wednesday.
The Jets have seven sacks this season, the second fewest in the NFL, heading into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
“We can do better,” Bowles said. “The timing’s got to be right. They get a good rush, [quarterback] got to hold the ball a little more. We take what they give us.”
In the last three seasons, the Jets sack totals have dwindled under Bowles, a noted defensive coach. In 2014 — Rex Ryan’s last season as Jets coach — the Jets had 45 sacks. In 2015, Bowles’ first season, the Jets had 39 sacks, and last season they had 27.
But this season the Jets have two talented defensive ends in Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, a pair of former first-round picks.
They have zero sacks after six weeks.
Wilkerson’s season is the biggest disappointment with no quarterback hits, one quarterback hurry and one tackle for loss, which occurred in Week 2.
Williams has six QB hits and seven hurries. But Williams has no tackles for losses.
“They’re playing hard and they’re playing well,” Bowles said. “They’re doing everything that we’re asking them to do, not disappointed in those two at all.”
When Bowles was asked what specifically Williams and Wilkerson are being asked to do he said, “just play football, specifically.”
Bowles needs both players to be strong in the run game and show position flexibility by moving to defensive tackle.
Asked if Williams and Wilkerson are playing the run more, he said, “I want them to play football and do what we’re asking them to do.”
Considering Wilkerson is the highest-paid player on the team in 2017 with a base salary of $14 million, more is probably needed from him. Williams has a total salary of $2.7 million this season and being a first-round pick, the expectations are high on him as well.
Each player is dealing with health issues, which could attribute to the lack of sacks. Williams is playing with a left wrist injury, suffered during the preseason and Wilkerson has a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder and is dealing with a toe problem. Wilkerson didn’t practice last week but played in the loss to the Patriots. Wilkerson missed practice Wednesday but the early indications are he will play against the Dolphins.
With each player struggling to get sacks, Bowles got tired of another question, the eighth, about his two defensive ends not having a sack.
“Nobody is playing great when you’re 3-3,” he said. “You’re playing average football, it has nothing to do with Mo or Leonard, it has to do with our entire team. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses about two guys when you got 11 guys on each side of the ball. If you want to nit pick go for it.”
Bowles took another question, the ninth, about his disappointment in the overall play of Williams and Wilkerson.
“I’ve made my comment guys, take it or leave it,” he said.
Another problem has been the defense’s poor showing against the run. The Jets’ run defense ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 138.8 yards per game.
The Jets’ theory is if you slow down a running game, it forces long down and distances for an opposing offense. It’s not a new concept, but the Jets are struggling at attacking the quarterback. Last week against the Patriots, Tom Brady came into the game sacked 16 times. He wasn’t sacked against the Jets.
“We got to do better,” Wilkerson said. “We talk about that in the group with our d-line coaches and amongst ourselves. Like I said last week, they’re a lot of games left all we got to do is keep working at it.”