Over the first four weeks of the 2022 NFL season, the New York Jets defense is producing turnovers at a much-improved rate, compared to last season.
In the 2021 season, the Green & White had 7 interceptions – third fewest in the NFL – and forced 14 total turnovers – second fewest.
During their 2-2 start, the Jets have already plucked 6 interceptions – tied for fifth-most in the NFL – and have forced three fumbles , recovering one.
"I have said forever, turnovers and takeaways are the great indicators of wins and losses," HC Robert Saleh said. "[Against Pittsburgh] is the first game we have won the turnover battle if I am not mistaken. We pushed versus Cleveland, and we are 2-0 in those games. And when we have lost the turnover battle, we are 0-2. And so forever, that's going to be the greatest indicator of wins and losses."
The uptick in defensive takeaways is not an accident. DC Jeff Ulbrich and his team made a concerted effort this offseason and straight through into the season to further study and practice opportunities to make plays on the ball.
"That has been a point of emphasis since OTAs, minicamps, offseason, training camp, the whole thing," Ulbrich said.
EachThursday, assistant defensive backs coach Ricky Manning, Jr. gives a presentation in front of the defense and highlights the players that could be prone to committing turnovers in the upcoming matchup.
"[Manning, Jr.] shows the violators on their team," Saleh said. "He shows the opportunistic players on their team and shows all where we can be better in regard to protecting the football. And we have been doing that for a while, but he gets up there every Thursday."
And at the start of every defensive unit meeting, they begin by reviewing any plays during practices and games that involve the ball.
"Anytime we do anything concerning the ball, that is the first point of emphasis of every defensive unit meeting," Ulbrich said.
And as a result, the classroom studies have moved to the practice field and game action.
"Understanding and knowing that turnovers can really shape games is important, It is something that we harped on this year," DL Sheldon Rankins said. "Each and every time we take the field, whether it's practice, walkthrough, or anything, it's just a mainstay and it's a focus."
LB Kwon Alexander added: "It all started in practice because we have been taking the ball away. And then in practice again today we were taking the ball. So, we are just trying to get on a roll with that."
The Jets' secondary has led the charge, getting 4 interceptions in the fourth quarter – including game-sealing INTs by S Ashtyn Davis against Cleveland and by S Lamarcus Joyner versus Pittsburgh.
Joyner's two picks against the Steelers lead the team and Davis, Michael Carter II, Jordan Whitehead and D.J. Reed eachall have one.
Rookie Sauce Gardner, the No. 10 pick in April's NFL Draft, is the only starter in the secondary without an interception. But at the pace the Jets are getting them, that might not last much longer.
"I think I am the only one who hasn't got one," Gardner said. "It is kind of crazy. Seeing stuff like that makes me want to get one. And if my teammates keep getting them, it is going to keep pushing me. I am very excited for those guys."
See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the home game against the Dolphins.