Looking strictly at this season's numbers, it's easy to say that at 35 years old, Ed Reed is too old and too slow to continue playing at a high level. Through three games with the Jets and seven with the Texans, he has yet to force a turnover of any kind.
But neither Reed nor his head coach have any doubt that he's still more than capable of getting the job done, even if he's not quite living up to the impossibly high standards that Reed himself has created.
"I don't think I've played much different this year than I have in the past if you go back and look at tape," the 12th-year safety said. "Outside of not being challenged as much, I don't think there's really been too much of a difference. The fact is that I have become a standard at the position and it comes with the territory of being torn down more when you're in the latter part of your career, especially coming off of a Super Bowl."
"There's a lot of things that are hidden that he does extremely well," Rex Ryan said during Wednesday's post-practice news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "I think we're all waiting for him to hit the stats sheet on interceptions. I'm sure he is, too. It's probably the longest he's gone in his career without a pick. Certainly, they know where he is, and given the opportunity when they throw one out there at him, hopefully he'll be able to make it happen."
Perhaps this is a sign of things to come: The last time that Reed had fewer than three interceptions 10 games into a season was in 2008, when he had just one. Incredibly, he finished that season with nine picks on the year after four pairs of two in his final six games.
And then there's his partner in crime, Dawan Landry, whose style of play at the safety position is slightly different than Reed's.
"You're not going to get the flash plays you get from other guys," Ryan said of Landry during this afternoon's news conference. "He is steady as can be and does a great job. He's a great communicator, he's physical. He's good in the run. He'll hit you, make no mistake, but he's not a blowup hitter like his brother [LaRon] where you hear him play sometimes. … He's smart, he's durable, he's dependable and he's just a good player."
Last week against Miami, Rex used his safeties in deeper coverages more often than in previous games this season, although as a head coach who loves to show a wide variety of blitzes and formations, how much did that hurt him to have to do that?
"A lot," he admitted after a long pause. "You like to challenge them and things like that. There's times for both, obviously, to play a single high or two high safeties."
"Coach is going to call his game regardless," Landry said. "He has a lot of pressure mentality, so whatever he's feeling, that's what comes out. But we're always going to be ourselves."
It's a pick-your-poison case where Rex must determine the risk/reward of trusting his cornerbacks in single coverage and getting after the quarterback quickly and often.
With a dependable player in Landry and a future Hall of Famer in Reed, Rex has the pieces in place on the back end of his defense to stop undrafted free agent rookie QB Matt McGloin and the Oakland Raiders offense. How will they go about strategizing for them? We'll have to wait until Sunday to see.
"It's all according to what a team presents to you," Reed said of finding that balance. "They had some deep threats with Mike Wallace, we played a little two to his side, a little bit more to make sure we didn't let him get over the top, and they made adjustments and made plays."
The loss to Miami has dropped the Jets to 5-7 and likely needing to win every game from here on out to even have a shot at the playoffs. Oakland, meanwhile, sits at 4-8 with nothing to lose, as its playoff hopes all but evaporated with its Thanksgiving day loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"They're a team right where we're at," Reed said, "competing and trying to finish this thing off strong and see how it comes out these last four games."