FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — As the music was being turned off at Giants practice in East Rutherford, hip-hop was blaring though the speaker system loud and clear at the Jets facility on Thursday.
Yes, these 2-2 Jets are quite relaxed, maybe even loose, given how rookie safety Jamal Adams was bouncing around the locker room messing around with some teammates.
A two-game win streak will do that for a team many projected to win no more than three to four games, and on Sunday the Jet visit the 0-4 Browns.
Todd Bowles, however, is cautious about getting too excited about the Jets, who are tied with the Patriots for second place in the AFC East.
“We’re not good enough to look past anybody, really we’re not,” he said.
He has a point. The Jets blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead last week to the Jaguars, only to win in overtime, 23-20. They are 29th in run defense, something defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers pointed out to the linemen this week. The Jets have the seventh best rushing attack in the league, thanks to a season-high 256 yards in the win over the Jaguars, but it’s produced just the 26th best passing attack and is ranked 20th in total offense.
Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, two of the Jets’ best pass rushers, don’t have a sack and starting running back Matt Forte could miss his second consecutive game with a turf toe.
But several players believe this group is loose because of an influx of young talent.
“When I was in Seattle, Richard Sherman and young guys they were pretty loose just like this,” tackle James Carpenter said. “Yeah, I’ve seen it before. Usually young guys don’t know a lot, so they’re trying extra hard. These young guys coming in now, they know their football, that’s why I think they’re pretty loose.”
The Jets purged their roster of highly-priced veterans in the offseason and instead have at least 30 players with fewer than three years of NFL experience, The average age on the roster has dropped to 25.7.
In the last three drafts, the Jets produced six starters, and a 2017 sixth-round pick, running back Elijah McGuire, is averaging a team-high 6.8 yards per carry.
This younger group, sprinkled with some veterans such as 38-year old starting quarterback Josh McCown, has made a profound impact on this team.
“I wouldn’t say we’re relaxed at all, I’d say we’re pretty excited,” Williams said. “We’re together as a team, we’re playing with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of swagger right now, especially from the defensive side. When we’re out there, everybody jumping around together, dancing together at practice, you see it on film as well. Guys are getting the crowd involved, celebrating with each other after plays and stuff and that’s what you need as a defense: that swagger having fun making plays.”
Nobody believes, well outside of the Jets, that making the postseason is part of the plans for 2017, given the youth of this team and that there are three months left in the regular season. The front office wants to see progress from some of their young talent and during the last two weeks, the players have provided it.
Now comes a difficult part, facing a winless team, on the road, where the No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett, is expected to make his season debut.
Bowles has pointed out the danger of overlooking the Browns.
“I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “But we’ve talked about it. We’re 2-2, we’re .500, that’s nothing to brag about. We got to get better in a lot of areas each week and we made some mistakes in the Jacksonville game and we got to get better at it and keep building.”