Jets lose Jenkins, stick with struggling Sanchez

Rex Ryan is staying positive these days, refusing to lose his swagger while dealing with his first real crisis as coach of the New York Jets.

“I know I’ll get criticized for it because maybe my expectations were too high,” Ryan said Monday. “I don’t think that’s true. My expectations are we’re going to have a heck of a football team and I am not backing off on that one bit.”

That’s even with his team on a three-game losing streak, facing life without nose tackle Kris Jenkins and sticking with a struggling Mark Sanchez.

“I think this team has a lot more character than maybe most people think,” Ryan said. “I’m banking on that. We’re going to come out and give everything we have on the practice field, fly down to Oakland and try to win one game in a row.”

Modest goals have replaced big, bold predictions. Dealing with adversity can do that to a team, as the sputtering Jets (3-3) are quickly discovering.

They learned Monday that they’ll be without Jenkins for the rest of the season. The big nose tackle was placed on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“It’s going to be hard to replace Kris,” Ryan said. “There’s not many Kris Jenkins playing in this league. Obviously, his impact is going to be felt.”

The four-time Pro Bowl selection was injured while making a tackle in the second quarter of the Jets‘ 16-13 overtime loss to Buffalo on Sunday.

“My feelings are hurt that I won’t be able to be out there fighting with my teammates this year,” said Jenkins, who was on crutches and had his leg heavily wrapped.

Meanwhile, Sanchez will remain on the field for the Jets – at least for now. Ryan is still committed to the rookie even after Sanchez’s miserable performance against Buffalo that included five interceptions.

The fifth overall pick out of Southern California has mostly struggled since beating out Kellen Clemens for the job in the preseason.

“We’ve got the right guy,” Ryan insisted.

Sanchez is tied with Carolina’s Jake Delhomme for the league lead in interceptions with 10, and his 56.7 quarterback rating is higher than only Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell and Cleveland’s Derek Anderson.

“I just think we’ve got to do a great job at looking at what we’re asking this young man to do,” Ryan said. “Do we need to cut things back? Are there things that we could do to put on somebody else’s plate to take some things off his plate?

“I have a lot of confidence in Mark.”

Sanchez was 10 of 29 for 119 yards in the loss, wasting a franchise-record 210 yards rushing by Thomas Jones on a day when the Jets ran for 318 yards, second most in team history.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” right tackle Damien Woody said.

Sanchez was hard on himself after the game, appearing almost on the verge of tears at times during his postgame news conference. He wasn’t made available to the media Monday; he usually only speaks on Wednesdays and after games.

“Was it just the play of Mark Sanchez that got us beat? No,” Ryan said. “We have to realize that this isn’t a guy that’s played 20 years in the league. Whatever it is, he’s got an unbelievable amount of talent. We all see it. We know what he’s going to be in the future, but we’ve got to be smart with him.”

Ryan said he wasn’t concerned about Sanchez’s confidence, despite shots of the quarterback sitting on the bench looking shellshocked at times during Sunday’s game.

“He’s resilient,” Ryan said. “He’s going to bounce back from this. I believe that.”

Jenkins, in his second season with New York after being acquired from Carolina, won’t be operated on for a few weeks so he can strengthen the knee and regain his range of motion. He said part of his hamstring would be used to replace the ACL, having undergone a similar procedure on his right knee in 2005. He also expects to be ready for the start of the team’s offseason conditioning programs.

“It still doesn’t mean that I won’t be around and it still doesn’t mean I’m not a part of this team,” the 6-foot-4, 360-pound Jenkins said, appearing in good spirits. “I just won’t be seen as much, which is fine because I won’t have everybody commenting about my weight, so that’s OK.”

The Jets re-signed veteran defensive tackle Howard Green to help replace Jenkins, as will holdovers Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito.

“He’s an excellent defensive lineman, as well as a teammate,” defensive end Marques Douglas said. “He’ll be sorely missed.”