Jets defense faces uncertainty
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.’ ”
The Jets announced last week that defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, 49, wasn’t with the team because of a “serious” undisclosed illness.
“I really don’t understand still what’s going on, but I know it can’t be good,” CB Morris Claiborne said.