As soon as Jets cornerback Isaiah Trufant went down with a season-ending knee injury against Seattle, secondary coach Dennis Thurman had a talk with Ellis Lankster.
Lankster, Trufant's fellow corner, recalled his interaction with his position coach this way: "He just straight said, 'Ellis, it's your turn. I need you to be more focused and I'm putting my trust in you.' "
That trust has resulted in Lankster's role on the Jets growing in the recent weeks. He played 24 plays on defense at Seattle, then 45 plays at St. Louis on Sunday.
"Man, I hadn't been on the field that much since college," Lankster said this week. "It felt great. It felt like college. It felt fun."
In reality, Lankster had been on the field even longer than Sunday, getting a season-high 49 plays against Indianapolis back on Oct. 14. But besides that, No. 26 for the Green & White was on point with his observation.
Last week, Lankster was assigned often to Danny Amendola, the Rams' top wideout. Amendola was averaging 11.6 yard per catch and 82.8 yards per game. But the Jets limited him to seven catches for 41 yards.
"I felt like I had a few little mental errors here and there," Lankster said. "But I felt like I had played pretty well, though. I played with confidence."
Head coach Rex Ryan was encouraged by his CB's performance, but also noted there's room for improvement.
"He did pretty well," the fourth-year head coach said at his Monday news conference. "He had the one penalty on third down, which has really been an area of focus for us, to improve on our penalties.
"This is going to be a huge challenge for him playing against New England and for all of us in the back end."
The 5"9', 190-pounder will be matched up at times against dynamic slot receiver Wes Welker when the Patriots visit MetLife Stadium on Thursday night. When the teams first met on Oct. 21, Trufant helped hold Welker to six catches for 66 yards.
"Don't get me wrong. He's one of the best receivers, slot receivers in the league," Lankster said of Welker. "It's like it's a big challenge for me. I'm just ready to see what he's got. I'm going to bring all of me."
The former West Virginia Mountaineer said he and Trufant talk frequently away from the field, adding that he may pay a visit to Trufant's house to watch some Welker footage before Thursday. And now with Rob Gronkowski, New England's Pro Bowl tight end, sidelined with a broken forearm, the Jets defense will try to capitalize.
"To be honest, we know Gronkowski was one of their top tight ends," Lankster said. "But we're still going to run the same defense. We're not changing anything."
What Lankster remembers most from last month's meeting in Foxboro was a missed opportunity. The Jets had a lead late in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady and the Pats rallied to send the game into overtime and eventually prevailed for the 29-26 win.
As the Jets return home Thursday for the first time in nearly a month, Lankster knows plenty of eyes will be on him.
"Rex is putting his trust in me, Mike [Tannenbaum] is, and the fans," he said. "So basically I'm not trying to let anybody down."
And while earning payback on the Pats won't be an easy task, Lankster is approaching the showdown with a positive mindset. "You cannot play scared here," he said. "If you play scared here, you're not going to get on the field. We have a saying: You have to play relentless. That's what I've been trying to do."