Sput­ter­ing Jets travel to face 2-3 Car­di­nals

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Bob Baum

The Jets travel across the coun­try in some­thing of a funk, as their coach Todd Bowles re­turns to fa­mil­iar turf. His long­time friend and for­mer boss, Ari­zona coach Bruce Ari­ans, has had prob­lems of his own.

The New York Jets travel across the coun­try in some­thing of a funk, as their coach Todd Bowles re­turns to fa­mil­iar turf.

His long­time friend and for­mer boss, Ari­zona coach Bruce Ari­ans, has had prob­lems of his own.

The Car­di­nals (2-3) were bal­ly­hooed as a sure-fire con­tender, but al­ready have lost as many games as they did all of last sea­son.

They are com­ing off a 3321 victory over San Fran­cisco , though, and quar­ter­back Car­son Palmer re­turns af­ter sit­ting out the 49ers game with a con­cus­sion.

The Jets (1-4) are hav­ing a tough time against a sched­ule that opened with four of their first five foes hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in the play­offs last sea­son.

New York lost the first three of those matchups, most re­cently a 31-13 beat­ing at Pitts­burgh , as they head into a Mon­day night en­counter with the Car­di­nals.

Bowles was a pop­u­lar de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor with the Car­di­nals for two sea­sons be­fore get­ting the job with the Jets.

“The only other guy I’ve been around that had the amount of re­spect that his de­fen­sive guys have for him is with Mike Zim­mer,” Palmer said of the coach of un­beaten Min­nesota, who was de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Cincin­nati when Palmer was with the Ben­gals.

It’s also a home­com­ing for New York quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick, who grew up in the Phoenix sub­urb of Gil­bert.

Here are some things to watch for when the Jets face the Car­di­nals in New York’s first trip to Ari­zona since 2004:

Good friends

Ari­ans and Bowles, whose re­la­tion­ship spans three decades, aren’t the only good bud­dies on op­po­site sides of the field Mon­day night. Palmer calls Fitz­patrick “a great friend.”

Their re­la­tion­ship stems from their two sea­sons as team­mates in Cincin­nati in 2007 and ‘08.

“When­ever I’m not play­ing against him, I’m root­ing for him so hard,” Fitz­patrick said, “be­cause of just the way that he ap­proaches ev­ery­thing and the way that he lives his life on and off the field. I think he’s one of the more im­pres­sive guys I’ve ever met in my life.”

Decker’s down

Jets wide re­ceiver Eric Decker was placed on in­jured re­serve Wed­nes­day with a par­tially torn ro­ta­tor cuff in his right shoul­der, and will have sea­son-end­ing surgery. He was in­ac­tive for two games af­ter ini­tially be­ing in­jured at Buffalo in Week 2 and the shoul­der wors­en­ing at Kansas City the fol­low­ing week.

It’s a big blow to the Jets’ strug­gling of­fense, which still has Bran­don Mar­shall (24 catches) and Quincy Enunwa (team-lead­ing 27 re­cep­tions), but the rest of the re­ceiv­ing corps is young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced. Rook­ies Robby An­der­son, Jalin Mar­shall and Charone Peake could see in­creased snaps, start­ing with the game at Ari­zona.

Tough sled­ding

David John­son rushed for 157 yards and two against the 49ers, earn­ing NFC of­fen­sive player of the week hon­ors, but it will be a lot tougher against a Jets de­fense that has given up just 68 rush­ing yards per game, sec­ond-best in the NFL.

It’s even more chal­leng­ing be­cause Ari­zona lost start­ing guards Mike Iu­pati and Evan Mathis to an­kle in­juries in the San Fran­cisco game. The re­place­ments are Earl Wat­ford and John Wet­zel, who nor­mally plays tackle.

“They’ve got their hands full,” Ari­ans said. “They were un­cov­ered for most of the game in San Fran­cisco, block­ing lineback­ers. They’re go­ing to have big, strong dudes on top of them this game.”

Big plays

The Car­di­nals have had trou­ble mak­ing the big pass­ing plays that were their trade­mark in their 13-3 sea­son last year.

That could change against a Jets team that has had is­sues with giv­ing up big plays through the air. New York’s pass de­fense ranks 31st out of 32 teams.

That’s a stun­ning spot for the Jets, who went into the sea­son think­ing the sec­ondary would be a strength. But Dar­relle Re­vis strug­gled dur­ing the first few games be­fore miss­ing last week’s game at Pitts­burgh with a ham­string in­jury. He’s un­cer­tain to play against Ari­zona.

Dar­ryl Roberts saw a lot of snaps against the Steel­ers be­fore in­jur­ing a shoul­der in the game, but fully prac­ticed Thurs­day. Buster Skrine, Mar­cus Wil­liams, rookie Jus­ton Bur­ris and the re­cently signed Nick Mar­shall are the Jets’ other healthy cor­ner­backs.

Look­ing up?

Af­ter an alarm­ing stretch in which he threw nine in­ter­cep­tions in two games, Fitz­patrick got through the game against the Steel­ers with­out get­ting picked off. It was his best per­for­mance since Week 2, when he threw for 374 yards and a touch­down in 37-31 victory at Buffalo, af­ter which he was se­lected the AFC of­fen­sive player of the week.

He still leads the NFL with 10 INTs, though, two more than Tampa Bay’s Jameis Win­ston.

Fitz­patrick has just five touch­down passes through five games, way off his pace from last sea­son, when he set the fran­chise record with 31 TD tosses.

“Ryan will bounce back. He’s just that guy,” Palmer said. “Hope­fully, it’s not against us.”

AP FILE

Jets cor­ner­back Jus­ton Bur­ris sits on the bench dur­ing New York’s loss to Steel­ers last Sun­day.

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