The Jets defense has yet to rise to its biggest challenges.
His ability to reverse that trend will likely be the biggest determinant of the Jets’ chances of making their way to the playoffs.
A true test of any NFL defense is how it performs against the league’s best offenses and quarterbacks.
The best defenses distinguish themselves by rising to the occasion and rising up against them, stifling offensive units that most others cannot.
The Jets have done their best this offseason to share their belief that they have the best unit in the league.
There was DJ Reed comparing the Jets defense to the 1986 Bears as historically excellent.
There was the bravado of John Franklin-Myers and Jermaine Johnson just before the start of the regular season, telling the Post that the Jets had the best pass rush in the league.
Robert Saleh constantly told reporters that the Jets defense was “coming in waves” every chance he got throughout the summer.
But how much of that confidence is based on performance against lower-down offenses and quarterbacks?
Since last year, the Jets’ lauded defense has failed more often than not against the league’s elite. That was evident in the team’s 30-10 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s a game,” head coach Robert Saleh said on a Zoom call Monday afternoon. “I don’t really think it really defines who we are as a defense, who we are as a team.”
Except it’s not just one game.
It became thematic.
Last year, the Jets defense gave up 27 points to Joe Burrow’s Bengals, 27 to Kirk Cousins’ Vikings, 24 to Lamar Jackson’s Ravens and 23 to Geno Smith’s Seahawks.
Besides the 30 points allowed to Jacoby Brissett’s Browns, they scored the highest four scores allowed by the Jets last year.
It’s no coincidence that the Cowboys, Bengals, Vikings and Seahawks offenses all ranked in the top 10 in NFL scoring last year and in the top 15 for most passing yards, while the Ravens had one of the better rushing scores. attacks.
The quarterbacks and opposing teams in the Jets’ four games with the fewest points given up?
Brett Rypien’s Broncos, Trevor Siemian’s Bears, Mac Jones’ Patriots and Aaron Rodgers’ Packers.
It’s become increasingly clear: The Jets thrive against quarterbacks and lowly offenses, but when they’re needed most against the best, they continue to come up small.
“There’s always (another) level (we can reach),” said inside linebacker and team captain CJ Mosley. “We never want to discredit ourselves. (The Cowboys) did a really good job of keeping us on the field. … When you have an offense, or really any offense like that that spends that much time on the field, at some point something is going to happen.
The only elite offense the Jets defense has managed to figure out is the Bills, allowing just 16, 17 and 20 points in the three matchups last year and this year.
The Jets forced four turnovers in their 22-16 win over Buffalo in Week 1.
With Rodgers sidelined after his torn Achilles and Zach Wilson back as the starting quarterback, defensive dominance now provides the Jets’ easiest plan for victory.
Although Mosley praised his defense for limiting the Cowboys’ big plays, the Jets failed to trouble quarterback Dak Prescott and captured the necessary stops on third down to get the ball back to the offense.
It was seemingly low tide for the Jets’ “we come in waves” pass rush, as they recorded just one sack and four quarterback hits.
Prescott carved up the Jets through the air, completing 31 of 38 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb dominated with 11 catches for 143 yards, lining up in different spots throughout the game to take on different defensive backs in the Jets’ proud secondary.
The Jets failed to force any turnovers.
Dallas converted a whopping 9 of 18 third downs, helping the Cowboys have a time of possession of 42 minutes 15 seconds, compared to the Jets’ 17:45.
The third-down woes were the biggest difference between the Jets’ defense against the Bills and that against the Cowboys.
Now the Jets must find a way to replicate their success against the Bills with the other primary offenses they will face.
Their season depends on it.
“For us, as a defense, we either have to force a turnover, create a turnover, or get off the field on third down,” Mosley said. “I think it comes down to us executing more, being more consistent on defense and just trying to get off the field. Some of those plays they made, but a lot of them were against us as well.