Jets look­ing to clamp leaky de­fen­sive backs

Strug­gling N.Y. de­fen­sive backs play­ing with ‘tar­get on backs,’ al­low­ing 285 yards a game

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

Re­ceivers run­ning free. That’s the way things are go­ing th­ese days in the back end of the Jets’ de­fense.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. >> Big plays. Busted cov­er­ages. Re­ceivers run­ning free.

That’s the way things are go­ing th­ese days in the back end of the New York Jets’ de­fense, and op­pos­ing of­fenses know it.

“There’s a tar­get on our backs in the sec­ondary,” safety Calvin Pryor said. “We’re def­i­nitely a part of the prob­lem that’s go­ing on right now.”

The Jets are al­low­ing an av­er­age of 285 yards pass­ing per game, rank­ing them 26th in the NFL in that cat­e­gory. New York is tied for third-worst with 17 pass plays al­lowed of 20 or more yards, and the Jets are first — or, last, in this case — with seven pass plays of 40 or more yards given up.

That in­cludes the 42-yard touch­down toss from Seat­tle’s Rus­sell Wil­son to a wide-open Tan­ner McEvoy last Sun­day, when the Sea­hawks re­ceiver caught the ball in stride and there wasn’t a New York de­fender within at least 15 yards of him.

“It’s re­ally not mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, so that’s prob­a­bly the wrong choice of word,” coach Todd Bowles said. “You can call it ‘busts.’ Some­times it’s not mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion when there’s only one guy in­volved. I’ve seen cer­tain plays like that that I’ve coached the sec­ondary. I don’t know if

there’s been as many at the same time, but over­all dur­ing the course of the year, you’ve seen cer­tain plays like that.

“We’ve had way too many.”

And, no one has been im­mune from be­ing beat for a big gain. Not even Dar­relle Re­vis. Sure, he is banged up, deal­ing with a sore ham­string and un­cer­tain to play Sun­day at Pitts­burgh. But he hasn’t been the same shut­down cor­ner­back he es­tab­lished him­self to be for much of his ter­rific ca­reer, as ev­i­denced by his strug­gles against Cincin­nati’s A.J. Green in Week 1 and Buf­falo’s Mar­quise Good­win in Week 2 . Buster Skrine, the Jets’ other starter, has had his is­sues, too. Start­ing safeties Pryor and Mar­cus Gilchrist have also had shaky mo­ments for a leaky sec­ondary. Mean­while, the de­fen­sive line has helped New York rank sec­ond in run de­fense. “The front is do­ing a great job stop­ping the run,” Pryor said. “It’s our job to stop the pass and that’s what we’ve got to go out there and do.”

The Jets face a tough task Sun­day in try­ing to get their sec­ondary right against a pass-happy Steel­ers of­fense that routed Kansas City 4314 last week. Ben Roeth­lis­berger threw five touch­down passes, in­clud­ing two to An­to­nio Brown.

Sam­mie Coates has at least one re­cep­tion of 40 yards in each of the Steel­ers’ first four games, while Brown’s four TD catches are tied for the NFL lead.

“If you’re strug­gling as a sec­ondary, it doesn’t mat­ter who you face,” Bowles said.

“You have to fix your prob­lems.”

So far, that has proven to be much eas­ier said than done for the Jets.

And it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a case in which the scheme needs to be sim­pli­fied in the sec­ondary. “They’re about as sim­ple as they can be,” Bowles said. “That’s alarm­ing.”

Many of the play­ers point to bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion through­out the de­fense, talk­ing things out and iden­ti­fy­ing what each of them needs to do on a given play.

“We’ve had a cou­ple of break­downs,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kacy Rodgers said, “but I feel to­tally con­fi­dent that we can get them fixed.” The Jets (1-3) have just three take­aways through four games, two in­ter­cep­tions by backup cor­ner­back Mar­cus Wil­liams, and a fum­ble caused by Gilchrist against Kansas City that re­sulted in a touch­back. New York was 3-1 after four games last sea­son, helped in large part by 13 take­aways.

“If you look back to last year around this time, we had a lot of turnovers and guys mak­ing plays on the ball,” Pryor said. “This year, we’ve just hap­pened to start off slow. Hope­fully we can pick it up and see how things go.”

It re­mains to be seen how the Jets will de­cide to de­fend Brown, es­pe­cially if Re­vis is un­avail­able. Bowles sug­gested that it could be a game-time de­ci­sion on Re­vis, who hasn’t prac­ticed this week. Wil­liams could slide into Re­vis’ spot op­po­site Skrine, and rookie Jus­ton Bur­ris could see ex­tended ac­tion. Dar­ryl Roberts could be ac­tive for the first time this sea­son, and pro­mot­ing Bryson Kee­ton from the prac­tice squad could also be an op­tion.

PETER MOR­GAN — AP FILE

Sea­hawks wide re­ceiver Paul Richard­son catches a pass in front of New York Jets’ Calvin Pryor, right, dur­ing Seat­tle’s vic­tory last Sun­day.

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