Jets trying to revive sacked pass rush

October 16, 2009

The New York Jets opened the season by punishing opposing quarterbacks, hitting them at will and forcing them into all kinds of mistakes. Well, that big, bad pass rush has been sacked for a few games, and the Jets want to revive it starting this Sunday against Buffalo. "To say the numbers are down, yeah," coach Rex Ryan said. "Buffalo had more sacks against Miami in one game than we've gotten all season. We only have four sacks. Obviously, we've got to get after the passer a lot better than that." New York is tied with Jacksonville for the fewest sacks in the NFL with four in five games. That's not exactly the type of statistic that was expected when Ryan brought his aggressive style of defense along with him from Baltimore. "They're going to come," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "We've just got to keep pursuing." The Jets haven't had a sack in their last two games, and the in-your-face pressure that marked their first few outings has been missing. Ryan and his players say it's a result of not being able to stop team's running games consistently. "The main thing is we have to get in long yardage," Ellis said. "The last two games, it's been third-and-shorts instead of third-and-8s, third-and-longs. For us to really get the pressure on, we've got to stop the run. The last two weeks, teams have been running the ball on us, so our sack numbers are really going to go down." New York gave up 151 yards rushing to Miami in a 31-27 loss on Monday night after allowing 153 in a 24-10 defeat at New Orleans the week before. Tennessee ran for 127 yards, but the Jets were able to take down Kerry Collins twice and force him into bad throws. "If the guy's going to get the ball out of his hand quick, sometimes you can't get them, but you've got to get hits and disruptions," Ryan said. "At one time, we were leading the league in all those things. Last week, it was more of them max protecting when they threw it, and we couldn't get to them. We'll see. Am I confident we'll get to the quarterback? Absolutely." The Jets opened the season with two sacks against Houston, but hit Matt Schaub hard nine times and hurried him throughout. They had no sacks against New England's Tom Brady in Week 2, but kept him off balance all game with blitzes and disguised coverages. "Sometimes it's easy to say that sacks equal quarterback pressure, but I think we've pressured the quarterback in every game," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "If you talk to people around the league and ask them who does the best job of pressuring the quarterback, I like to think we're at the top of the list. The number is not there, but I've never looked at sacks as being a measure of a quality defense." That said, the Jets know they need to get to the quarterback more often. "We have to find a way," nose tackle Kris Jenkins said. "We've been playing some quarterbacks who have definitely been about the three-step drops and getting the ball out quick and that's something that's going to make it a little bit harder to get in a quarterback's face." Buffalo's banged-up, makeshift offensive line has given up 18 sacks, and could provide a chance to revive the pass rush - even if Ryan doesn't necessarily put too much stock into who's out there for the Bills. "They remind me of the old Green Bay Packers: Fuzzy Thurston, Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg," Ryan said. "That's how we're looking at this team right now. We haven't gotten to the passer the last two weeks, so it's not about the teams that we're playing. It's about us." David Harris has two sacks, Jamaal Westerman has one, and Ellis and Bryan Thomas each have a half-sack. Eight players in the league have more sacks than the entire Jets team, including Denver's Elvis Dumervil, who has twice as many. "Stats are funny," said Ellis, fourth on the team's career list with 62. "I think a lot of people put a lot of emphasis on sacks and they're supposed to judge you as a player. There are only certain guys who have that freedom to do straight rushes and get up the field. Normally, those are the guys that get sacks." Granted, the Jets' style of defense doesn't lend itself to having those types of pure pass rushers. Outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who returned from a four-game suspension last week, is generally recognized as the Jets' best pass rusher, but his career high for sacks is seven. "If the sacks come, they come," Pettine said. "People say they come in bunches. That'd be great. To me, as long as they come in the context of us winning the football game, that's fine. I can go the rest of the year with four sacks and pile up the wins."