On paper, the opportunity presented in this weekend's divisional match-up with the Dolphins appears to be exactly what the Jets defense needs. The Dolphins offense is ranked 29th in the NFL in points per game, averaging just 12.2 per contest after their first five contests.
Upon arriving in New York following a long flight home from Jacksonville, the New York defense moved back to 26th in the league, allowing 26.4 points allowed per game.The Jets also have trouble getting off of the field come third down. They presently rank tied for 28th in the league, as opponents' third-down efficiency is a substandard 41.4%.
"Honestly it's tough to swallow, but it is what it is: facts are facts," defensive co-captain Jonathan Vilma said. "For me and our defense, we just have to keep finding ways to get better, and a lot of it is just consistency.
"We need to be more consistent and that needs to go across the board," added the middle linebacker. "That's the main thing right now - consistency. Sometimes we play well and sometimes we don't. I don't think it's mental or communication or anything, it's just to a man playing consistently out there. Being consistent down in, down out, and if we get off the field on third down we'll get better."
The Dolphins are in the middle of a quarterback shuffle. Joey Harrington was handed the reins prior to last weekend's game at New England to give Daunte Culpepper and his recently repaired left knee a rest. Just one day after bowing 20-10 to the AFC East frontrunners, head coach Nick Saban announced that Harrington will get another crack in week six against the Green and White.
Harrington's uneven performance against the Pats was still rather uplifting for an offense. Entering that divisional contest, both Culpepper's mobility and protection were significant issues, as the former Pro Bowler was sacked 21 times in just four games. Harrington was sacked just once in New England, but he threw two costly interceptions in the loss. The sixth-year quarterback attempted 41 passes, completing 26 for 232 yards.
"I think we'll take the same approach," said Shaun Ellis, Vilma's co-captain on defense. "Regardless of who's in the game, it's the same system and we have to play against the system, not the individual player. Harrington is a good quarterback, he makes good throws and he makes good decisions so, we'll just try not to let him get in a rhythm."
Already this week, Vilma has spent considerable hours in the film room dissecting his upcoming opponent. He doesn't see many differences in the offense with the former Oregon Duck behind center.
"We see that they run a very similar offense when they changed, and I haven't seen much change in the offense since Harrington's went in it," said Vilma, a 2005 Pro Bowler. "For us, we still have to just defensively prepare for their offense and obviously cater to their abilities."
In addition to their quarterback situation, the Miami running attack has hit a rare speed bump. With Ricky Williams exported north of the border to the Canadian Football League, tailback Ronnie Brown has had a difficult time moving behind a line which has struggled. The Dolphins average just 84.2 rushing yards per game, placing them 27th in the league.
As for the Jets, many problems they have faced stem from the run as well, both offensively producing it and defensively stopping it. Leon Washington was the first Jets rusher to run for more than 50 yards after he broke out against the Jags with 101 yards. Also in that game, the Jets defense allowed Jacksonville to pour out 181 yards through the ground, including three rushing touchdowns. Although those numbers may loom over the heads of other organizations, this Jets corps will take one thing from that loss, and that's strictly knowledge.
"You try to look at the tape and find the things that you need to improve on to help your team and try to find the reason why you got beat so badly," said Washington.
In Vilma's case, he left Jacksonville behind once the tape stopped on Monday.
"As soon as we finished watching the film on Monday, we prepared for the Dolphins," he said. "On Monday, when we left here, Jacksonville was out of our heads. We moved on and we're onto our division game with Miami. Jacksonville is done with."
NotesThe Jets announced Wednesday they have released Derrick Strait and signed defensive back Hank Poteat. "Hank has familiarity with this system," Mangini said. "I've coached him personally and he was with us there late in the preseason, so he has some exposure to the coaching staff and the players. I think he will transition smoothly into the group." Poteat, who played for the Patriots last weekend against the Dolphins, will now a select fraternity of players who have lined up against the same team in consecutive weeks… Laveranues Coles was on lookout duties at Wednesday's practice at Hofstra. The seventh-year veteran receiver said he judges his team's ability to bounce back from a loss by the way they carry themselves the next time out. "As a player I always try to feel the other guys out with their body language – see how guys are responding to our last lost," said Coles. "Some people and some teams can lose a game and go into the tank; some teams come out fighting. So you can tell by the way we go out today and see guys' body language to see what direction we're going in." Coles also commented on quarterback Chad Pennington, who spent Wednesday morning taking the blame for Sunday's collapse. "I think Chad, being the person that he is, is going to place a lot of the blame on himself which I don't think he should do," Coles said. "It's not just Chad doing things; it's all of us in this together. He might not be happy with his performance - I know I'm not happy with my performance. I'm never happy with what I do regardless of the outcome, and I think that's what made us the pros that we are because we're never satisfied. We always want to do better."
Wednesday Injury Report Jets
Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), RW Tim Dwight (thigh), RB Cedric Houston (knee), OL Pete Kendall (thigh) & OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Probable:*DL Dave Ball (hand), *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *OL Anthony Clement (shin), *DL Bobby Hamilton (knee), *FB James Hodgins (knee), *OL Adrian Jones (thigh), *CB Justin Miller (hip), DL Rashad Moore (personal), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (thigh), *TE Sean Ryan (Chest), WR Brad Smith (thigh), *S Eric Smith (knee), & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (knee) & *RB Leon Washington (hip)
Dolphins Doubtful:WR Marty Booker (chest) & QB Daunte Culpepper (knee)
Questionable:CB Travis Daniels (knee), TE Justin Peelle (knee), & LB Derrick Pope (hamstring)
Probable:*TE Randy McMichael (ribs)
- Denotes players who participated in practice