As we move towards the Jets' final home game of the season Sunday vs. the Browns, let's empty out the Notebook.
Focused GroupWhile the Jets might not be playoff bound for a third consecutive year, they aren't talking like a team that has their bags packed already. Rex Ryan's crew is a prideful group and they have stuck together despite dropping four of their past five contests.
"We didn't sign up for 14 weeks. We signed up for 16 weeks, so we have to make sure we get these wins these last two weeks just to feel good about ourselves, individually and as a team, and go into the offseason with a victory," said defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. "We also are playing for the fans as well."
After being released by the Jets last February in a cost-cutting move, veteran OLB Calvin Pace had no idea where he would be playing in 2013. But the Green & White reached an agreement with Pace in April and he has racked up a career-high nine sacks while remaining a key cog on the Jets' rush defense.
"I'm trying to kind of really just stay in the moment. There's nothing I can do about the past. The future's the future, so right now it's just about Cleveland," he told me. "Trying to get this victory against this team that their record doesn't say a lot, but if you look up at the scores — they're in some games. They're doing some good things. Again just trying to stay in the moment, play this game and do it again the next weekend."
Already with the career-high nine sacks, Pace needs just one sack to join Wilkerson with double-digit quarterback takedowns. As Randy Lange first pointed out this week, it would mark the first time since 1981 that the Jets had two defenders (Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko) with 10 sacks.
@gambit1154 asked me on twitter this week if Pace had a sack dance planned for No. 10.
"Hopefully somebody will pick me up and carry me off the field," Pace said with a laugh. "Nah, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'll probably just go back to the huddle and play the next snap."
Wilkerson suddenly feels the heat for the team-lead. He has enjoyed Pace's resurgence and now they will share a friendly competition down the stretch.
"I kind of get on him a little bit, tell him to slow down a little bit," Big Mo told me. "We're going to make sure we get to the quarterback. I'm going to make sure I definitely get after (the quarterback) being that he's so close."
Chrebet on GenoWith rookie quarterback Geno Smith at the helm, the Jets enter their second to last weekend of action ranked 31st in scoring (17.6 ppg), 31st in passing (178.4 ypg) and 30th in yards (306.7 ypg). But Smith, who is the only QB since the 1970 merger with four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime over his first seven games, has been hurt by protection issues as the Jets rank last in sacks per pass play and constant juggling at the wide receiver position.
When I caught up with one of the most productive receivers in franchise history, Wayne Chrebet stressed the importance of timing for any quarterback.
"If he doesn't have the time to get the timing down with certain receivers, it is not going to work in the game," he said. "When you have different guys in there — Stephen Hill's hurt, Santonio's hurt, Winslow's out — it's tough to win games in this league."
The Green & White will be in position to add some skill position talent this offseason as GM John Idzik has some money to spend in free agency and New York's AFC representative will have a load of draft picks in May.
"You can never have too much firepower. Just need consistency out there," Chrebet said. "It's just tough to have guys filling in every week. The Ivory kid is great, he's pounding in there. I like him a lot. Powell is a good running back. They have the guys, they just need repetition, being together a lot and maybe another guy here or there. But they have potential."