Now would be a good time for the Jets’ defense to, well, defend.
Defend the names on the back of their green-and-white jerseys.
Defend their pride and manhood.
Defend their home turf.
Defend against more embarrassment in a season that’s been going the wrong way.
Sunday’s guests of the 2-6 Jets at MetLife Stadium will be the 5-3 Bills, who’ll bring with them a potent offense with an ornery attitude after the absolute home stinker they delivered in a 9-6 loss to the lowly Jaguars four days ago.
The last thing the Jets, coming off a frightful defensive performance in a 45-30 loss in Indianapolis, needed was for the Bills to be stifled by the Jacksonville defense this past Sunday.
“Yeah, I’d imagine Buffalo’s going to be really upset after going back and watching that tape,’’ Jets head coach Robert Saleh said.
The Jets enter this game allowing an NFL-high 31.4 points per game. They’ve allowed the most total yards to opposing offenses and are coming off of a game in which they yielded 260 rushing yards to the Colts — 211 of which came before first contact with a Jets defender, according to ESPN statistics.
It was an alarming display and left you to wonder what the deal is with the defense considering that Saleh came here with a defensive background. You’d figure the defense would be ahead of the offense, which has been led by a rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, and a backup, Mike White, who’d never played an NFL down entering the season.
Yet it’s been the defense, which has the most experienced and established players on it, that’s been most disappointing through the first eight games. Yes, there have been key injuries, but this is no excuse to give up what this group has been giving up on almost a weekly basis.
A year ago, the defense allowed 74 plays of 20 or more yards. Through the first eight games this season the Jets have allowed 45 of those plays, which coaches call “explosive plays.’’
Earlier this season, Jets first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich told reporters that Saleh pinned up a poster in his office that read: “Eliminate explosive plays.’’
Saleh on Monday was asked if, in the wake of the porous performance on defense against the Colts, he might become more involved in calling the defensive plays, said he had no plans to do so and praised Ulbrich.
Saleh taking over the defense eight games into this season would be a sign of panic and an admission that he may not have hired the right defensive coordinator. Saleh has little choice but to stay the course at the moment. It’s too soon to panic.
But he and Ulbrich need to find a way to make the defense play better than it did against the Colts or this Jets team will break a number of dubious franchise records it wants no part of.
The Jets have had 54, 31 and 45 points scored on them in their past three games, their only win among those a 34-31 win over the Bengals. They’ve allowed at least 100 rushing yards in all but one game this season and are yielding an average of 133.3 yards per game and 4.6 yards per rush — both among the highest in the league.
These negative stats wouldn’t be so damning if the defense was bending but not breaking. The problem is the Jets’ defense is bending and breaking, having allowed the second-most TDs in the league this season (28) and the most red-zone TDs (22).
“Not good, at all,’’ Ulbrich said. “As coaches, we’ve got to keep fighting to find answers and find solutions. No one in this building thinks it’s good enough. We’ve got to keep coaching them up better and the players [have] got to play better.’’
The defensive front, which is supposed to be a strength of the team, produced 13 sacks in the first four games, including seven against the Titans in Week 4. In the past four games since the win over Tennessee, the Jets have only five sacks.
The Bills enter this game ranked fourth in the NFL in points scored with 29.4 despite the six-point output Sunday. Their quarterback, Josh Allen, is completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 2,236 yards with 17 TDs and five INTs, and he’s rushed for 319 yards and three TDs.
“As coaches, we’ve got to put them in better spots to be successful and they’ve got to play better, too,’’ Saleh said. “We just have to get things tighter.’’
If they don’t, Sunday is going to be yet another humiliating day for the Jets’ defense.