As the New York Jets gathered for their first day of work in a week, they insisted their focus was on football, on their next opponent, the Seattle Seahawks.
Even players such as Nick Mangold, who didn’t have power in his New Jersey home, said there would be tunnel vision for everyone on the roster. Coach Rex Ryan and his staff are insisting on it, with Ryan noting that he used “blunt force trauma” to get the message across.
“Where we are, where we want to be, and how we plan on getting there,” was what Ryan explained to his players Monday morning as they came off their bye week. While Ryan acknowledges the importance of dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he also recognizes there is no way of dealing with football in a halfway manner.
Mangold agreed that the Jets (3-5), coming off two straight losses, will “put all our efforts into Seattle.”
“I think guys got that message,” the center said. “We haven’t helped ourselves much in the first half of the season.”
No, they haven’t, particularly in ugly home losses to San Francisco and Miami. Ryan gave them the entire bye week off in great part because of the hurricane, but maybe he wanted them to get away from the game, recoup and come back with a new sense of purpose.
There’s lots to fix on the Jets: a leaky run defense, inconsistent rushing offense, too many turnovers in the red zone, bad decision making by quarterback Mark Sanchez. And, surprisingly, sloppy special teams play, usually a strength.
It adds up to a distressing record so far.
But not one to stress, veteran safety Yeremiah Bell said “We definitely have the resources to get back into this thing. We have the players, we have the coaching staff and we have the ‘want to.’ The thing is, it’s going to be just us on Sundays just going out there and executing.
“We can’t help teams get a shot here, get a shot there and kind of stretch the game a little bit. So we’re going to have to be a lot more disciplined in that area.”
The Jets did some good things in the first eight weeks, including wins over Miami and Indianapolis, and a close defeat at New England that, with more imagination and less conservatism in the late going also could have been a victory. But the lopsided defeats to the 49ers and Dolphins in which New York couldn’t have been more mistake-prone seem to erase memories of the positives.
Ryan wants to change up some of the things the Jets do on the field, perhaps sensing they have become too predictable. He wasn’t giving away any trade secrets Monday, nor will he at any other time. So when asked if Tim Tebow and the wildcat — or variations of it — will become a bigger part of the game plan, Ryan was mum.
He communicated daily with his coaching staff even as the hurricane and its aftermath left Ryan and many other Jets employees without power. The coaches offered options on how to improve the team’s performances.
“We got a bunch of suggestions, so I hope they’re good,” Ryan said. “We’re certainly looking at them. It’s kind of a tough thing, because you have to put all your focus in on this one opponent, but we have to be open for different suggestions, which we have taken in.
“We will be doing some different things. Again, I don’t want to get into the specifics of it. I hope you understand that if there’s an advantage to be gained, I want to gain that advantage without letting our opponent know. We’ll be looking at a lot. There are several things to improve and I’m excited about trying to implement some of these things.”
Injuries also held back the Jets in the first half of the season, particularly losing their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, to a season-ending left knee injury. Top receiver Santonio Holmes also was lost for the season with a left foot injury.
Ryan is hoping there will be no issues with injuries for the Seattle game. On Monday, linebacker Bart Scott, running back-kick returner Joe McKnight and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis didn’t practice. Seven others were limited, but with an extra practice day because they didn’t play last weekend, that wasn’t a major issue.
Another loss or two would be damaging, of course, in New York’s quest to return to the postseason after missing out last year. The previous two seasons, Ryan’s first and second as coach, the team went to the AFC title game.
“I think the months of November and December, that’s when most teams are made anyway,” said cornerback Antonio Cromartie, one of the few Jets who has played well this season. “I think the biggest thing for us is just to make sure that we take care of the things we need to take care of one week at a time. Just take it and understand that when we say one week at a time, we have to focus in on that one week and not try to look forward to anything else.”