A year ago, the Jets’ defense looked to improve from being the worst unit in the NFL.
Not only did Gang Green accomplish that goal, but it also finished with a top-five defense.
Despite their success on the defensive side of the ball, Jets players believe there’s still room for improvement.
“We are a top-five defense, so I feel like we can be No. 1,” Jets cornerback D.J. Reed said. “But we gotta put the work in. I just think it comes down to being just deliberate and just communicating and just having that swag when we’re out there.”
In Robert Saleh’s first season as coach of the Jets, they finished dead last in yards and points allowed during the 2021 season. After a few additions, including signing Reed and drafting Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, the Jets defense significantly improved last year.
Gang Green’s defense finished fourth in yards (311.1) and points (18.6) allowed. In part, because of their stout unit, Gardner, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and linebacker C.J. Mosley were either first or second-team All-Pros.
The Jets’ defense was the catalyst for beginning the season 7-4 and it appeared they were headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. However, Gang Green lost six consecutive games to end the year, which brought about significant changes to the roster.
Among them was the trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers who figures to help a struggling Jets offense that finished 25th in yards and 29th in points per game. Not only did the Jets make changes to their offense but also to the defensive side of the ball.
Gang Green added defensive linemen Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson to help clean up the team’s rushing defense. In March, the Jets traded for former Ravens safety Chuck Clark in a move they hope will bolster their secondary further. In 17 games last year, Clark registered 101 tackles, four pass breakups, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his final season for the Ravens.
“I just like [to] play wherever,” Clark said. “That’s what I did when I was in Baltimore. I played from nickel to down linebacker, strong safety and free safety. I just have range and move around. I don’t think you should limit yourself as a ballplayer any type of way.”
Clark will team up with fellow safety Jordan Whitehead, who had an inconsistent first season with the Jets a year ago. Whitehead struggled with missed tackles and assignments as there was some thought the Jets could release him during the offseason.
But instead, Whitehead has helped Clark learn the Jets’ defense since he arrived at Florham Park.
“I think right now it’s just a lot of off-the-field vibing, gelling and talking,” Clark said about his relationship with Whitehead. “That’s been carrying over to the field because now I’m in a different position.
“In the situation I was in, when guys are coming in, I thought, ‘OK, I’m teaching them,’ but now [Whitehead’s] teaching me a whole different thing right now and I’m cool. But it all just started with our off-the-field communication. Like I said, as we got out there on the field, it has seemed effortless for real.”
With all the improvements on both sides of the ball, the Jets will enter the 2023 season with high expectations. The NFL believes so because the schedule makers gave the Jets six primetime games, including the first-ever NFL game on Black Friday, as they will host the Dolphins. This year be the first time the Jets will play a Sunday night game since 2011.
The league doesn’t just give marquee games to any team, they usually give them to teams who have a significant draw or are expected to contend the following season. With Rodgers and a top-five defense returning, the Jets certainly have the arsenal to hang in the AFC East with the Bills and the Dolphins, who both made the playoffs a season ago.
“We want all the positivity, obviously, but once we kick off on Sunday or Monday night in that opener, the results are all that’s going to matter,” Saleh said. “To achieve the result, you just have to bring everybody back. To achieve the results you want, you have to bring everybody back.
“It doesn’t happen on gameday, it happens today, it happened yesterday, it happens tomorrow, it happens with every breath you take in terms of how you’re preparing to achieve and keep that positivity rolling. I’d love to go 17-0 and cruise through the playoffs and win a championship, but you’re not going to be able to unless you focus on the moment.
“Acknowledge the noise, acknowledge the positivity, be excited about it because, again, my opinion, I think 32 coaches stand in front of their team every year and talk about winning a championship. Realistically, there’s maybe six-to-eight teams that have an actual chance to do it, and I do think we are one of those teams, but none of it matters unless we take care of it today.”
Source: Berkshire mont