Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine pride themselves on being able to stop the run. So far they've done a great job of that, allowing only 79 yards per game on the ground, which ranks fourth in the NFL.
In passing situations, however, the normally stout Green & White D has been less stellar. Going to Denver to face the Broncos this Sunday, the Jets will be ready for a lot of pass plays.
"We're expecting a ton of it," Pettine said. "I know that [Broncos head coach Josh] McDaniels comes from the New England mentality where if they feel they can't run it then let's throw it on every snap. It's something that we think we're going to get given some of the struggles we've had defending the pass and their struggles in the run game so I think it does add up to a lot of passes. But I think we're prepared to go either way."
The Broncos, led by quarterback Kyle Orton, have the NFL's No. 2-ranked passing offense and have picked up 81 of their 105 first downs through the air. Orton has thrown 213 times and completed 141 (66.2 percent) for eight touchdowns and 1,733 yards — which puts him on an NFL-record pace of 5,546 yards.
"I think they threw the ball 154 times in the past three games," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "They're going to throw the ball. Our thing is just be prepared, get ready."
The Jets pass defense is ranked 23rd, allowing 235 yards per game. In the second half Monday, the Vikings' Brett Favre converted five third downs of 12 yards or longer with five completions, two for touchdowns. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis has been hampered by a hamstring injury and newcomers Cromartie and safety Brodney Pool have been charged with the duty of coming in and communicating a completely new defense.
As a result of that adjustment period and the four-game absence of the team's best past rusher, linebacker Calvin Pace, the Green & White are looking to shape up the way they attack quarterbacks.
"We have some things we need to work on," linebacker Jason Taylor said, "in terms of rushing up front and covering down on the back end. Based on their stats and what they've done in the past, this will be an opportunity for us to either get exposed or correct the things we need to correct. One way or the other, something will give."
There's no rest for the weary, as New York's AFC representative had to play in inclement weather on Monday night, then turns around to go to Denver. There they'll face a two-hour time change and high altitude, which could have the Jets cornerbacks and safeties winded as they chase Denver's receiving corps around the field. The Broncos' wideouts, in particular Brandon Lloyd, the NFL's receiving-yardage leader with 589 yards, have been impressive.
"They have a No. 1 guy in Lloyd," cornerback Dwight Lowery said. "I feel like he's developed into a No. 1 guy. [Eddie] Royal, [Jabar] Gaffney and [Demaryius] Thomas, they also play roles within the offense and Royal is a great player in the slot. They like to get him the ball in the open field and make things happen. I see them as spreading the ball around, everybody getting touches and the quarterback making the right read and getting the ball in his playmaker's hands."
If Lloyd is their top receiver, who will cover him for the Jets? Revis' hamstring injury has made his status a big story for the past three weeks. Ryan said Thursday that Revis will fly with the team to Denver, but if he can't go or is limited, Cromartie could face Lloyd much as he did Randy Moss.
"We're preparing for everything," cornerback Drew Coleman said. "Revis had a great practice today. I kept asking how he felt. I think he got tired of me asking how he was feeling. I always want Darrelle on the field."
But, Coleman said, "If Revis is in there, we're going to go out and play. If he's not, we're going to go out and play."
Lloyd, in his eighth NFL season, is already less than 200 receiving yards away from eclipsing his career yardage in a season. Orton's career high in passing yards before he came to Denver was 2,972, a mark that he's a mere 1,200 yards away from.
"If [Orton] knows your coverage," Pettine said, "he'll know where to go with the ball and he has capable receivers. I think it's a very, very underrated group of offensive skill players. Receiver-wise I think you look at guys, they're kind of retreads from different places. And that's certainly not the case in Denver — they're a rejuvenated bunch. Orton stands at the head of that group himself in the same situation."