Inside the Numbers | Jets D Strong out of the Gate in the Situational Derby

Green & White Among NFL's Top 3 Defenses in Opponents' 3rd-Down Percentage & Red Zone TD Rate

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Despite the Jets' 0-2 start, their defense is a top-10 unit in the NFL. And we can even talk top three when it comes to two sets of situational statistics.

The Green & White, after two weeks of the season, have allowed Carolina and New England to convert third downs seven of 26 times, a 26.9% success rate that is third in the league. And they have allowed their opponents to score just a pair of touchdowns in seven red zone opportunities, a 28.6% rate that is tied for second among the NFL's RZ defenses.

LB C.J. Mosley said those high rankings are not an accident.

"It's just preparation in practice," Mosley said. "Our coaches do a great job giving us the right things to look at, coaching us the right way. Third down, red zone, two minute, all these situations, that's all about pride, it's all about heart and execution, and so far we've been executing really well.

"It's all a collective thing."

Coming Up Big Inside the 20

The Jets haven't gotten off to this good a two-game start defending the red zone since 2015, when Todd Bowles' first Jets team gave up no TDs in four opportunities and finished first in the NFL with a 35.0% red zone defense. It's difficult to project a season's RZ performance based on the first two games, although many teams that do well in September finish in the top 10 in December/January.

These are the five best red-zone touchdown percentages posted by Jets defenses in the first two games of a season in the 2000s:

Table inside Article
Year Jets HC RZ Opps/TDs/% Final %/Rank Record
2000 Al Groh 9 / 2 / 22.2 42.0 / 7th 9-7
2001 Herm Edwards 7 / 2 / 28.6 44.2 / 10th 10-6
2009 Rex Ryan 3 / 0 / 0.0 42.4 / 5th 9-7
2015 Todd Bowles 4 / 0 / 0.0 35.0 / 1st 11-5
2021 Robert Saleh 7 / 2 / 28.6 .......... ..........

Interestingly, all five Jets head coaches above were or are in their first years not only as Jets HCs but as NFL HCs. And the first four all finished the regular seasons in question with winning records. That could be coincidental, of course, but giving up zeroes and threes instead of sevens is a proven way of putting W's on the board.

Keeping Those Chains from Moving

And Saleh and all NFL coaches, especially the defensive-minded ones, know the value of getting their units off the field on third down and getting the ball back in the offense's hands. In two games, the Jets have done that, allowing the Panthers and Patriots to move the chains a little better than one out of every four third-down plays.

In fact, the Jets' 26.9% rate is their third-best since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Here are those top three:

Table inside Article
Year Jets HC 3D Atts/Convs/% Final %/Rank Record
1991 Bruce Coslet 19 / 4 / 21.1 36.8 / 11th 8-8
1997 Bill Parcells 24 / 6 / 25.0 31.6 / 3rd 9-7
2021 Robert Saleh 26 / 7 / 26.9 .......... ..........

And the wow! factor here is that the franchise best for opponents' third-down conversion rate after three games was posted way back in 1966, when the Jets opened 3-0 and their pre-Super Bowl defense allowed a 21.3% conversion rate (10-of-47) by the Dolphins and Oilers and, in Game 3, a certain mile-high road foe.

That's right. The Jets D cemented what would endure as its franchise three-game mark with a 4-for-14 third-down showing at the Broncos.

Pure coincidence that the 2021 Jets venture to Denver to play the Broncos on Sunday, and they'd need something like a 1-for-12 third-down showing to set the new three-game mark. But they'd take 4-for-14 and their first win of the season, all for the good of the Green & White collective.

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