It's never a good sight when your leading tackler goes down to injury. Such was the case for the Jets last Sunday when David Harris exited the field after he sustained a groin injury.
"I kept telling myself that my performance couldn't be a falloff," said David Bowens, Harris' replacement. "I had to be as productive as Dave had been and that's what I kept reminding myself as the game went on."
The 31-year-old Bowens, who is moved around all over in the Jets' sub packages, picked up a lot of inside linebacker reps in the base during the Green & White's win over the Chiefs and estimates he participated in anywhere between 35 and 45 defensive snaps.
"I feel like I can run a lot better, I was able to finish the game," says D-Bo, who's listed at 265 in the media guide but has himself down to 256. "I got tired during a couple of series but who doesn't? In the fourth quarter, I was able to finish the game and I felt good."
With a win under the Jets' belt, Bowens used his Victory Monday for a relaxing getaway.
"I went to Atlantic City and got away. Honestly, I didn't really gamble," he said. "I just wanted to go somewhere — a nice place — and go to a spa and just get away from it."
There is a real chance that Bowens will be right back in the middle this weekend when the Jets visit the Bills in Buffalo. Harris, who did not take part in Wednesday's practice, could miss the first game of his pro career. If that happens, Bowens will make his 97th NFL start.
"I can't let it get to a point where everyone else is worrying about me and if I'm going to do my job and they're doing theirs. If I'm in there, we'll be fine," said Bowens who finished with three tackles against the Chiefs, including a key sack with under a minute remaining. "I know what I'm supposed to do and I'll do a good job."
Acting as a Jets defensive quarterback, Harris has been the defender who listens to play calls via radio and then relays them to his teammates. After Harris went down, fellow inside linebacker Eric Barton assumed that responsibility, but it could be D-Bo in Buffalo.
"When you're calling signals, you have to get everybody lined up. You have to get the front lined up and let them know if we are in even or in odd, and we have to get the coverage to the secondary," Bowens said. "In two-minute, it just helps you to be able to stand right in the middle and everyone just looks at you while you get the call out."
While Barton plays with a nasty edge, he's a calming influence on his teammates. Just like Bowens, Barton is a 10-year vet and he was able to give D-Bo some sound pointers when he entered the game for Harris.
"He was like 'watch this' and 'watch that,' and as the game went on, I started anticipating a lot of stuff," Bowens said. "With his knowledge of the game, he helps me out tremendously, especially with this being my first time playing there."
Back in training camp, the Jets started to use Bowens some at inside 'backer. Then when Brad Kassell went down to injury, Bowens became the primary backup at a position he hadn't played since he was at St. Mary's High School in Detroit.
"I understand more, especially in the run game, now," D-Bo said of his inside progress since the summer. "I was just running into people, but now I understand blocking schemes, I understand where I'm supposed to fit and I understand where my help is."
The Jets would love to have Harris' services in Buffalo — the Hitman's 52 tackles lead the club. But they won't be worried if Bowens makes the start. He's a smart, high-motor, high-character player who's already racked up three sacks, four QB pressures, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"He's got that veteran savvy," said head coach Eric Mangini. "He can take a defense, understand what's happening, and then be able to anticipate the changes and attack the changes."