Jets de­fense faces un­cer­tainty

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NEWS - Andy Vasquez

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. – The Jets de­fense had a lot on its mind dur­ing an Oct. 7 win over the Bron­cos.

The unit was des­per­ate to bounce back from its em­bar­rass­ing per­for­mance the pre­vi­ous week in Jack­sonville. But the play­ers were also think­ing about their de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Kacy Rodgers, who missed the game as he deals with a se­ri­ous ill­ness.

“It was in every­body’s heads,” Jets out­side line­backer Jor­dan Jenkins said. “We thought about him. … We re­ally wanted to play the hard­est for Kacy and we got him the vic­tory.”

Jets coach Todd Bowles an­nounced last week that Rodgers, 49, wasn’t with the team be­cause of a “se­ri­ous” undis­closed ill­ness. Rodgers, who is a close friend of Bowles and has been his de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for 31⁄2 years with the Jets, wasn’t at the Week 5 game.

Bowles said at press time that he was wait­ing for an up­date on Rodgers’ sta­tus and was not sure if his de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor would have to take a leave of ab­sence to ad­dress his health. “Once I know more, I can say more,” Bowles said. “But I’m not say­ing he is (tak­ing a leave of ab­sence) yet and I’m hop­ing for the best, but we will see how it goes.”

It’s a dif­fi­cult, un­cer­tain sit­u­a­tion. And it’s at the fore­front of ev­ery­one’s mind as New York pre­pares to host the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in Week 6.

“For me, per­son­ally, he has been on my mind since I have heard the news,” corner­back Mor­ris Clai­borne said Oct. 7. “I re­ally don’t un­der­stand still what’s go­ing on, but I know it can’t be good.

“He’s not here, so it can’t be good. I texted him last night, and I also texted him again to­day be­fore the game just to let him know I was think­ing about him. It felt dif­fer­ent with­out hav­ing him around at the time. We are pray­ing for him. Our hearts go out for him and his fam­ily and hope to have him back as soon as pos­si­ble.”

“Somber hearts,” line­backer Dar­ron Lee said.

“We wish he was here. He was here in spirit. But we’re hop­ing he gets well and this one def­i­nitely was for him and these next cou­ple of wins are for him, as long as he’s not here.”

This had been a tu­mul­tuous week for the Jets de­fense, which had played its worst game of the sea­son in Jack­sonville, sur­ren­der­ing 500 yards of to­tal of­fense for the first time un­der Bowles in a 31-12 road loss.

Safety Ja­mal Adams said the de­fense had play­ers-only meet­ings to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Once they ar­rived to MetLife Sta­dium Oct. 7, with­out Rodgers, Adams gave a pas­sion­ate pregame speech ask­ing the de­fense to play for their ab­sent leader.

Mean­while, Bowles took over as the lead de­fen­sive play-caller. He said it was dif­fi­cult on such short no­tice, but with the help of his staff Bowles called a strong game and the Jets bounced back in a big way.

They made Bron­cos QB Case Keenum’s life dif­fi­cult all day, sack­ing him four times and never let­ting Den­ver get into an of­fen­sive rhythm.

But Rodgers was never far from the Jets’ minds, from the pregame speeches to break­ing the hud­dle in the vic­to­ri­ous locker room.

“Def­i­nitely,” Ja­mal Adams said. “We had a brother down, and that was our mes­sage. We wanted to play for him. I know he is smil­ing right now. (I’m sure) he was ex­cited the way we played, and we can’t wait to get him back.”

Sev­eral Jets said they had texted with Rodgers in the re­cent cou­ple of days and that they’d be in touch with him go­ing for­ward. And they’d ex­pect him to be a critic of the Oct. 7 per­for­mance, de­spite the win.

“I’m sure Kacy would say: ‘We played well but we’ve still got to fix some things,’ ” Jenkins said, adding a phrase Rodgers of­ten uses. “‘We can’t have all these Kemo Sabes out of po­si­tion.’ ”

ED MUL­HOL­LAND/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

The Jets an­nounced last week that de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kacy Rodgers, 49, wasn’t with the team be­cause of a “se­ri­ous” undis­closed ill­ness.

ROBERT DEUTSCH/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

“I re­ally don’t un­der­stand still what’s go­ing on, but I know it can’t be good,” CB Mor­ris Clai­borne said.

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