After converting with touchdowns on their first four red zone possessions in Week 12, the Jets increased their league-best TD conversion rate to 73%. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey told reporters Thursday that head coach Todd Bowles didn't wait long to emphasize the importance of finishing inside the 20.
"I think the biggest thing is Coach Bowles had us start working on that from almost the third day we got here," Gailey said. "We've been working red zone - he really believes in situational football - and we've been working hard at it from early, early in OTAs. Not just minicamps and training camp – from OTAs we're been working on that, so I think that has a lot to do with it. And we're getting a better feel for each other and we have a couple of guys who really know how to beat people in the red zone. Combine that with a tough runner, it helps you in the red zone."
Gailey was referencing the Jets' offensive triumvirate of Brandon Marshall (9 TD), Eric Decker (8TD) and Chris Ivory (8 Total TD). Last week, rookie wideout Devin Smith scored the first TD of his professional career. Gailey believes Smith is developing and he can eventually become another force.
"The other teams have two issues – they have Decker and they have Brandon. If you can add a third one to that, now you really create problems for people," Gailey said. "I think we're going to get there. It's not been as fast as any of had wanted. He missed all of training camp and stuff like that, but I think we can get there if we keep working the system so to speak."
A pair of young players on the defensive side of the ball – OLB Lorenzo Mauldin & DE Mike Catapano – both saw a lot of playing time in the Jets' 38-20 win over the Dolphins. Maudlin collected a sack, a fumble recovery and two fumble recoveries in 38 snaps while Catapano added a QB hurry.
"Just to get more speed on the edges, be able to keep our bigger guys fresher and get a little bit more of a rotation in there and just really create more speed on the field," said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers of the increased playing time. "Maudlin we felt like in practice has been really coming on and if you watched Mike in practice he's been really flashing. So we felt like we wanted to give those guys a chance to see what they can do."
Veteran linebacker Erin Henderson also rotated in with Demario Davis at ILB, finishing with five tackles as the Jets set a franchise-low with 12 rush yards allowed.
"Erin playing more is not a shot on Demario," Rodgers said. "It's just Erin has really earned more playing time and as we go through it and work. Erin's play on special teams has stepped up and he earned the playing time. It wasn't a knock on Demario"
*While Calvin Pryor set the tone early against the Dolphins with a body shot on WR Rishard Mathews, the Louisville Slugger also delivered on special teams as he helped spring Jeremy Kerley free for a 58-yard punt return.
"Most of the guys threw some pretty good blocks really," April said. "Calvin Pryor threw probably the key block, the initial block that gave him the opportunity." *