The Jets will be without one of the NFL's best run stoppers on Sunday against the Rams in DT Folorunso Fatukasi, who was placed on reserve/COVID-19 list because he came into close contact with someone with the coronavirus. He has a 5.7% run-stuff rate, which is third-best in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. His teammates, Quinnen Williams and Henry Anderson are tied for second in the NFL with a 7.0% stuff rate.
"That's a tough one to replace," Head Coach Adam Gase said. "We were getting low on bodies as it is. We'll have to move pieces around, get some guys rotated in there. It's kind of by committee as it is. Some guys will have to step up and fill the void."
Kicker Shuffle, Kick Return Solution
The Jets have kicker gymnastics to work out before Sunday's game at Los Angeles. Sam Ficken (groin) was designated to return to practice and should be activated for Sunday's game barring a setback. The team also claimed K Chase McLaughlin earlier this week and released K Sergio Castillo before re-signing him to the practice squad.
"Well, we'll see how it plays out," special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. "Sam looks pretty good so far, and we just added Chase, and Chase has got some talent. So, we'll see where it takes us so far, but Sam kicked pretty good the other day, and we'll see what happens."
On McLaughlin, Boyer added: "He hasn't been in [the building] yet, he's just been in meetings. … I've talked to him, and he's a great kid. He's a talented kid. I've watched him before a bunch of times."
On the positive side of the special-teams ledger, the Jets have found their kick returner in Corey Ballentine. Boyer said on Nov. 21: "Our return game, specifically kick return, hasn't been up to the standards we set here and I'm not happy about it. We have to try to get better the last seven games of the season." Insert Ballentine, who made his Jets debut on Nov. 29 against the Dolphins. He's averaging 29.7 yards on 7 returns and had a 66-yard return against the Seahawks last week.
"You can see he's got some talent," Boyer said. "Obviously, he's very fast. It's just trying to get him to run the tracks that we like and everything like that. He's doing a really nice job. I think that there's starting to be some continuity a little bit with a few of the same guys that are blocking for him and that really helps. Hopefully, he continues to do that. And certainly, we need that part of our game and give our offense some really good field position and give them some short fields."
See the Top Images from Practice Leading Up to Week 15
Eyes on the Outside
Rams DL Aaron Donald receives a lot of attention both on and off the field ,and deservedly so. Los Angeles, however, also has debatably the NFL's best cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, the No. 5 overall pick in 2016. A three-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro, he was a part of a secondary that held Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf and Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins to a combined 10 catches, 80 yards and 1 TD in recent weeks.
"His instincts alone, I haven't been around too many corners where I feel like it's just he has such a great feel for the game," Gase said. "He does a really good job as far as feeling the route, kind of feeling the receiver. He's stopping, he runs the route before the guy. He knows when to stay deep, he knows when it's time to gamble. The way he transitions with routes is really impressive and let alone with his ball skills. You better not miss on him to where if he's driving on an out route and you miss just slightly inside, you're looking at it going the other way.
"I always appreciate it because when we played him when he was at Jacksonville, he knew their defense. He knew all the holes. He knew what could hurt them, what couldn't hurt them and you can tell it's just like he was playing like a chess game out there with the quarterback a little bit. That's what made it scary going against him because there was a little bit of a Richard-Sherman-type feel of how he knew their defense."