The Jets return home Sunday for their Week 8 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals minus their rookie quarterback, but they could have their defensive leader back to face one of the NFL's most talented offenses. Mike White will get his first NFL start with Zach Wilson (PCL sprain) on the mend while C.J. Mosley, who missed last Sunday's loss to the Patriots with a hamstring injury, likely will be cleared for takeoff.
"This week, practice has been going well with my reps, so it's still a day-to-day thing," Mosley said this week. "But as far as I know, as long as everything keeps progressing the way it is, it looks like I'll be playing Sunday."
After appearing in the first five games of the regular season, Mosley was a gameday inactive last week and the Jets defense was not the same. It yielded 551 total yards as the Patriots had 12 plays of 20+ yards and scored on nine of their first 10 possessions. Mosley, who leads the defense with 45 tackles, is central command. Not only is Mosley slated for his return but Jarrad Davis, one of the team's most prominent free-agent additions, is scheduled to play for the first time since going down with an ankle injury in a Jets-Packers summer game in August.
DL John Franklin-Myers said of Mosley: "He's a general on the field, he gets everybody lined up, puts us in the right position. You kind of see some of the checks that he makes to put everybody in the right position and kind of steal those plays, some of the screens, and the traps, and draws that we're seeing. So, it's huge to get him back. And then, JD is coming back now, so that's another big, big piece for us. I'm looking forward to playing with those guys."
The Jets will face a red-hot Bengals team that ranks seventh in the NFL in scoring (27 pts/g) and hung a 41-spot in Baltimore in a trouncing of the Ravens last week. QB Joe Burrow is completing 68.9% of his passes, rookie WR Ja'Marr Chase has 754 yards receiving and Joe Mixon is the NFL's third-leading rusher with 539 yards. If the Jets are going to have success slowing them down, Mosley's presence is critical.
"C.J. is an exceptional player, obviously," said Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. "His talent speaks for itself but his ability to really elevate those around him because of the communicator he is and just the awareness and he's seen a lot of ball and he's played a lot of ball. He's played at a high level and he helps this defense play better, collectively, when he's in there."
The Jets have played only two home games to date and the defense gave winning efforts both times out. In a Week 2 loss to the Pats, they yielded 260 yards and held New England to 3-of-12 on third down. Then in their Week 4 victory over the Titans, the Jets sacked Ryan Tannehill 7 times and held Tennessee to 5-of-19 on third down. Mosley, a four-time Pro Bowler, totaled 10 tackles and 1 PD against New England and had 13 tackles and a sack against Tennessee.
"C.J.'s résumé speaks for itself," said defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi. "C.J. Mosley has been playing in this league for a long time, he's a great leader. He leads just with his aura alone. To have him back, it's a blessing. But he understands and we all understand that we all have to do this together."
With the big picture in mind, Mosley talked this week of setting White, who played well in relief of Wilson last week, up for success.
"We want to do our best to take all the pressure off our quarterback as we can," he said. "Obviously, getting the ball back as quickly as possible, three-and-outs and turnovers, creating good field position for our offense."
The Jets hope they got all their horrors out of the way against the Patriots. They'll need to limit the Bengals' explosive plays to give themselves a chance -- Cincinnati ranks No. 2 in pass yards per play (8.63) and No. 3 in yards per play (6.22).
"It's going to be a fantastic challenge," Ulbrich said. "I start with kind of the explosive reel which, it wakes me up and these guys, they're starting to roll and catch some steam and momentum right now. I can't tell you last time I saw 40 put on in Baltimore. That's a long time coming. So they're definitely in a rhythm right now, they're playing at a high level, we're going to have to play at our best. There's no doubt about that and we got to make sure as coaches we put these guys in the right position to play fast and play sound football and we will."
The Jets will operate offensively without Wilson and probably WR Corey Davis, who injured his hip during Thursday's practice. Davis has accounted for 4 of the Jets' 9 TDs this season and the offense is still searching for its first points in the first quarter. The Jets also have to flip the script in the turnover department (-8) and the defense is still searching for its first INT of 2021. But their most valuable performer to date remains confident good things are on the horizon.
"I think we're going to respond really well," Mosley said.
See the Top Practice Images Leading Up to the Home Game Against the Bengals