On Friday's final injury report before the Jets' Week 8 contest vs. the Falcons, CB Buster Skrine (concussion), RT Brandon Shell (neck) and TE Jordan Leggett (knee) were all ruled out. Veteran DL Muhammad Wilkerson, who is dealing with toe, foot and shoulder injuries, was listed as questionable.
With Skrine down, the Jets have some shuffling to do in the secondary. Darryl Roberts and second-year player Juston Burris could be shifted inside to the nickel, but both have played mostly on the outside this season. Another option could be Robert Nelson, whom the Green & White activated from the practice squad earlier this week as Xavier Coleman went on Injured Reserve with a shoulder ailment. The Jets also have a lot of depth at safety as well, so they have plenty of options.
"Inside guys, there are a lot of different routes, a lot of quickness, change of direction," said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. "Then outside, you're just out there on the island, but the route combinations are different and the matchup is different. The type of player you're facing in there is different than on the outside."
Nelson, who appeared in 11 games last year with the Texans, has also spent the majority of his career on the outside.
"He's been here with us for about two or three weeks now," Rodgers said. "But this guy, you just kind of watch him run around. He's extremely quick and extremely competitive. Ever since he's been here, we've liked everything that he has done."
While nothing is certain in the NFL, the forecast calls for an 100% chance of rain on Sunday, which could result in a heavy dose of the ground game. Last Sunday's contest against the Dolphins marked the first time since Week 3 that running backs Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Eli McGuire all suited up on game day. The backs combined for 91 yards on 19 carries for an average of 4.8 yards a clip, which Forté said was just the tip of the iceberg.
"If it's going to rain like they say it is, and it's also supposed to be windy, it's harder to throw the ball, so we have to be able to run the football," said T Brent Qvale, who'll start in place of Shell. "We have to be able to have a good balance in order to keep the flow of the game going. You don't want to have an excuse like the weather, but it does affect you if you're throwing it and the wind is taking it. If it's wet, it's going to be slippery, so we just have to really focus in and execute."
Qvale is no stranger on the outside as he's started two games this year and after starting five games in 2016.
"You have to go out there and test it the first couple of plays and see if you're slipping," he said of the potential wet playing surface. "I'll bring several pairs of cleats, so I'll see what footing works best before the game and during the game. If I'm slipping, I'll make a change. That first series we'll definitely go out there and test everything out."
Best Images from Friday's Practice at 1 Jets Drive
Don't Let the Birds Fly
The Falcons currently rank No. 7 in the NFL in total offense and feature the 2016 MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman has rushed for 425 yards, which ranks No. 9 in the league, on 91 rushes for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. The Jets did a very good job against the run last week as Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi was limited to 51 yards on 23 attempts. Since Week 3, the Green & White have limited opposing backs to just 3.42 yards per carry, the sixth-lowest average in the NFL during that span.
"It was something we really harped on all week because we know we weren't performing as well as we should have against the run," said second-year OLB Jordan Jenkins of last week's performance. "We like to be known as a run-stopping defense and frankly, we haven't been getting it done all season. We really wanted to work on everyone having the right fits and making sure everyone knew we had to be physical because we wanted to come out on top."