Bob Sutton frequently reminds his defenders that a unit's progress comes with small steps.
"I tell the players all the time that there are no quantum leaps in this deal," he said. "It's inches."
Even before he talked with a small press gathering this afternoon at Weeb Ewbank Hall, he met on the second floor with a pair of his most talented playmakers.
"I was just talking upstairs to [Jonathan] Vilma and Kerry [Rhodes] about it and I said the same thing," he said. "You'd like to turn a button on and it's all fixed, but that just isn't how it works."
The Jets have the NFL's 28th-ranked defense. They yielded 413 yards last week in a loss to the Eagles, but the Green & White kept the point total down to 16 and Philadelphia managed just one touchdown.
"We're off in the sense that we're not playing effectively enough to win. To me we made some strides last week in one area," Sutton said. "If you want to be good on defense, the one thing you strive to do — if nothing else — is you want to force a team to kick field goals. If you make a team kick field goals, you have a chance to win the game at the end."
The Eagles' only touchdown came on what was an innocent-looking pass when Donovan McNabb completed a quick slant to Kevin Curtis. But a couple of would-be tacklers failed to wrap up and the result was a 75-yard score on the visitors' opening possession.
Over the past couple of weeks, head coach Eric Mangini has emphasized tackling in practice with some hard-hitting sessions.
"On defense you have to tackle. You're not going to be good on defense if you don't tackle," Sutton said. "There is technique in that and we want multiple people there."
The Jets have just six sacks during the club's 1-5 start but they posted half that number last week. While sacks are welcomed, the desired goal is to take the passer out of his comfort zone.
"To me, one of the real important things ... is how you affect the quarterback," Sutton said. "You can affect the quarterback in a lot of different ways. Sacks are the obvious one but there is also pressure or — like we say a lot of times — moving a guy off the spot so he is not comfortable back there."
The chore this week is to limit the effectiveness of Bengals QB Carson Palmer. Cincinnati is primarily a throwing team, averaging 284.4 yards per game through the air. Palmer has one of the NFL's best arms and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson have combined to catch 83 balls for 1,083 yards and 10 TDs.
The Bengals find themselves in a similar situation to the Jets, though, searching for a win to end a multi-game losing streak. While explosive, the offense has managed to turn the ball over 14 times and has converted on just one of its past 18 third-down conversion attempts.
Sutton, in his eighth season with the Jets and 35th in coaching, wants to see his unit continue to inch forward this weekend. He maintained there "isn't much difference" between winning and losing in the National Football League.
"The old saying is treat victory and defeat for the imposters that they are," he said. "There is a lot of truth to that."