After three games, Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton wasn't defending his unit's 386 yards and 26.3 points allowed per game, the one sack and one takeaway. But he believes in his players, his coaches and the scheme.
"Is it where we'd like it to be today? No, but I don't think anybody's saying that," Sutton said in his biweekly informal meeting with Jets reporters Friday. "This is a long season. You need to stay the course. That's the thing we're going to do as a staff, and the players are very willing to do that. That's where as a coach you're encouraged.
Jets followers wouldn't care what alignment the Green & White used if it produced NFL-leading results. However, with the defense's sluggish start, calls are being heard for a switch from the 3-4 back to the 4-3.
But that's not going to happen. As head coach Eric Mangini explained at his news conference earlier in the day and as Sutton underscored, the Jets have confidence in their version of the 3-4.
"We've been down that road before," Sutton said. "Players are players. A lot of different guys on our team can play in a lot of different systems, and a lot of players on other teams can play in our system. We have an image that the only defense we ever line up in is the 3-4. That's not totally accurate. We have a system based on the 3-4, but the 3-4 comes in a lot of flavors. That's the truth of it."
Mangini, also asked about the defensive scheme, said, "There's a traditional two-gap 3-4, and then there's another version with zone-blitzing, penetrating, multiple fronts. It is a 3-4. There are three down linemen and four linebackers," the coach said. "It's the configuration of people. What you do with those people is unique to each coordinator and each team."
The Jets defensive coaches are upbeat about the unit's prognosis because of the way the players have taken to the challenges at hand. Sutton said in his two seasons with Mangini, "the thing I really enjoy about these guys is they'll work at it. They have a great work ethic, a great resolve to stay the course."
Sutton wasn't pointing fingers at possible reasons for the struggles, primarily because he said there is no one answer.
"If it was this specific defense or this player, as a coach that would be the easiest thing," he said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't usually work like that. It takes 11 guys functioning well together. If we didn't have great effort, that would be a concern, but that's not the case. They work hard, they come prepared.
"There's a consistency you need, where if one guy doesn't do it exactly right, you can get hurt. It's the little things. We've got to make strides in those areas."
Sutton is not one to predict a timetable for a turnaround similar to last year's defensive awakening in the second half of Game 8 at Cleveland, which led the Jets to their eye-opening sixth-place NFL finish with 18.4 points allowed per game — after seven weeks last year, they were ranked 27th in the league in scoring defense.
But the white-haired coordinator is keeping the faith that this year's group is on a similar positive path.
"One of the things from my standpoint that is enjoyable is that these guys come back each week and go to work," he said. "We've had some really good practices. In the end, ultimately all that will pay off."