Progress can be measured by more than the numbers of a box score. Especially on defense and particularly in Sunday's loss to the Saints, and Jets HC Robert Saleh and DC Jeff Ulbrich said they saw germinating signs -- the positive kind -- among the numbers.
"They've been showing flashes," Saleh said, referring to the defense. "We put together one good game. I really think two games with Miami [24-17 loss] and Houston [21-14 win] and even the Philadelphia game [33-18 loss]. I'm standing strong and I get the stats. I don't necessarily look at stats, just play-to-play production and what happened in that game. I do feel like it [the 30-9 loss to New Orleans] was a better game than people will give it credit for. Especially when you consider all the different things that went our way. They have been getting better and this is an opportunity for them to continue to build and get better and continue stacking your good days on top of one another."
The Jets defense limited the Saints to 3.6 yards a carry until Taysom Hill's late 40-yard TD run, with RB Alvin Kamara picking up 120 yards on 27 carries.
"It took them over 40 carries to get 150 some odd yards, so they were averaging 3.7 per run," Saleh said. "And so defensively, doing a really nice job handling all the different quarterback runs, all the different things they were doing offensively. Things we've still got to get better at, but overall, it was 13-6 in the fourth quarter."
Missed tackles, Ulbrich said, remain an issue -- especially in the red zone. And with the defense, statistically, that is, under a microscope after being allowing 40+ points three times in the 2021 NFL season, it might be easy for some players to check out. That certainly wasn't the case on Sunday. DT Quinnen Williams injured his shoulder, went to the locker room and returned to the game. LB C.J. Mosley was tenacious, leading all players with 17 tackles (11 solo).
"A lot of teams in our situation, a lot of veteran guys, established players, they can take that as an opportunity to protect themselves and protect their own interests and step away, not put themselves at risk," Ulbrich said. "The fact that he [Williams] goes out there and plays like he does, with the injury that he had, it just shows you how selfless he is, and how committed he is to this organization, and turning this thing around."
He added: "We are so fortunate as an organization and as a defense to have someone like C.J. Mosley. He is just, if there is an opposite of protecting yourself, he is that. He is a guy who throws his body around as much as I've seen any football player I've ever been around, coaching or playing. He's another guy that it's absolute team first, he's selfless in every way and he's tougher than #!*%."
For the Jets since Week 6's Sunday off, it has been up-and-down performances by the defense: New England scored 54 points, then a victory over Cincinnati, followed by back-to-back losses yielding 45 points in each. Then after a loss to Miami and a win at Houston, a pair of losses as the opposition scored 30+ points in each game. Against the Saints, the pass defense yielded 141 net yards, the Jets' third-best figure of the last three seasons. And through 13 games, the Jets rank 11th in sacks per pass attempt (7.06%).
"These guys are working their butts off, players are working their butts off, we're trying to get this right, and they have been getting better," Saleh said. "It's just the results. When the result isn't what people want, people really struggle to see that aspect of it, it's a result-oriented business. So, I feel like it's going in the right direction."
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