FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It would be quite the shock if the Jets’ struggling offense finally clicked on Sunday when quarterback Mike White makes his first NFL start. They’ve been borderline incompetent in the first six games with franchise quarterback Zach Wilson. It’s hard to imagine things are going to dramatically change now.
What White really could use on Sunday is a little help – and not even just from an offense that still is finding its way. The best thing he could get is a bounce-back performance from a Jets defense that was humiliated in New England last Sunday. That would be a real boost for him.
And the defense knows it, too.
“In a sense, yeah,” said linebacker C.J. Mosley. “We want to do our best to take all the pressure off our quarterback that we can. That’s kind of the things that defenses talk about when we’re going through adversity, with our starting quarterback out.”
If they actually could do that, it sure would take a lot of pressure off White. And it’s not really too much to ask, even of the NFL’s 27th-ranked defense. They certainly should be motivated enough, coming off a 54-13 loss in New England that left Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich feeling “embarrassment, anger, everything imaginable.” They were ripped for 551 yards by a team with a rookie quarterback, gave up nearly 150 yards and four touchdowns to the Patriots running backs, and more points than any Jets defense had given up in 42 years.
That disaster led to what safety Marcus Maye said was a “pretty bad” film session on Monday. In their first meeting of the week several players spoke passionately about what happened and what the Jets needed to do.
"After a performance like that, everyone takes some blame -- coaches and players alike,” Ulbrich said earlier this week. “Then to be very transparent and brutally honest about what happened and how to fix it, obviously. There was a very honest meeting and they were very receptive to it, which is a positive in the middle of a very hard day -- a positive from the standpoint that they're absolutely all in this together.
“And because of that, it gives us an opportunity to overcome this."
It’ll help too that the defense even has reinforcements coming in, with Mosley expecting to play after missing the New England horror show with a hamstring injury, and maybe even linebacker Jarrad Davis back for the first time since he injured his ankle in the second preseason game. They’re not anywhere near whole, considering they’re still without defensive end Carl Lawson, safety Lamarcus Joyner, and even rookie linebacker Jamien Sherwood.
But they’re closer, which will help.
It’ll help more if the messages they tried to deliver on Monday morning actually got through.
“One thing about this team, about this defense, we’re really resilient,” Mosley said. “We came in Monday, we swallowed our pride we all watched the film, we saw the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, there was a lot of ugly on the film. But the past few days have been great as far as moving onto the next opponent and locking in.”
They need to be locked in and refocused, because they can’t count on the offense, which has been plagued by more than just quarterbacks all season long. Whether it’s poor blocking, a lack of a running game, or bad drops by receivers, they’re not suddenly going to morph from an offense that averages just 13 points per game to one that go toe-to-toe with a Bengals team averaging 27 – seventh best in the league.
They can’t even go into the game hoping for a flash of brilliance from their young quarterback, like they got from Wilson in their lone win of the season nearly a month ago. White was decent against the Patriots, completing 20 of 32 for 202 yards with two interceptions and the touchdown pass he threw on his first pass of the game. But this is still the first start of his four- year career. It’s unlikely he’s the magical spark that this moribund offense needs.
That’s why the defense needs to go into this game assuming it is completely on their shoulders.
Because it probably is.
“I think we’re going to respond really well,” Mosley said.
If they want to avoid another miserable Sunday, they don’t have much of a choice.