Commentary

Ryan humbled by Jets' lack of defense

Minus the injured Revis, Jets' defenders struggle to slow down Henne, Dolphins

Updated: September 27, 2010, 10:16 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan, head coach, was thrilled with his first victory over the Miami Dolphins. Ryan, defensive guru, was humbled.

"My pride is hurt a little bit, no question about that," he said Monday.

The New York Jets' defense, ranked No. 1 in the league in 2009, was shredded by a team that doesn't like to throw the ball. The secondary, minus injured cornerback Darrelle Revis, made Chad Henne look like Dan Marino, surrendering 363 yards in the air.

Ryan seemed taken aback by the defensive performance, and with good reason. Only once in the previous 75 games, dating to 2005 with the Baltimore Ravens, did one of his defenses allow more than Sunday's 436 total yards in a game. That came in last season's AFC Championship Game, in which the Indianapolis Colts racked up 461.

Troubled by the number of miscommunications in the secondary, Ryan said he will challenge the defensive backs this week to "do a better job in the classroom" and to spend more time with secondary coach Dennis Thurman.

Funny how communication isn't an issue when Revis is on the field.

Revis' presence changes the dynamic of the defense because of his ability to lock down the opponents' No. 1 receiver. The Jets survived the previous week without him, holding the New England Patriots scoreless in the second half, but it was much tougher against the Dolphins, who benefitted from having a week to plan for a Revis-less secondary.

The Jets (2-1) probably will be without him again Sunday when they face the Buffalo Bills (0-3). Although Ryan said he's hopeful Revis can return, he hinted the strained hamstring still isn't close to 100 percent. Privately, they're not counting on him this week. They Jets want to be ultra-conservative with the injury, lest it become a season-long issue.

So Ryan switched his attention to the healthy players, trying to tighten up a unit that was supposed to be a strength.

"We can't just wait until Darrelle gets back," Ryan said.

The Jets have three new faces in the secondary, so some of the confusion is understandable. Against the Dolphins, they started two new corners, Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson, with new safety Brodney Pool in sub packages.

There was a major breakdown on Henne's 11-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall that gave the Dolphins a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Before the snap, some of the Jets were pointing and motioning to each other, trying to figure out what to do. They figured wrong, as Marshall found an open space between Cromartie and safety Jim Leonhard.

"I never recognized some of those coverages out there," Ryan said, laughing.

Wilson, in his first NFL start, was responsible for 64 yards on one drive alone -- two completions and a 27-yard penalty for pass interference. Cromartie, assuming the Revis role, played Marshall man to man almost the whole game. How'd he do? Let's just say it was closer to Fire Island than Revis Island.

Marshall finished with 10 receptions for 166 yards, including a 40-yard play that almost became a 51-yard touchdown in the final minute. Cromartie missed a tackle, surrending 22 extra yards. If it weren't for Pool, who pushed him out of bounds at the 11, Marshall would've made it 31-29, only a two-point conversion from overtime.

"Overall, the defense felt like we played pretty lousy," safety Eric Smith said.

But say this: With the game on the line, the defense figured out what to do. On fourth down from their own 5, with 34 seconds left, the Jets used the same triangle zone coverage that backfired Dec. 20 against the Atlanta Falcons. Anybody remember Tony Gonzalez's 6-yard, game-winning catch with 1:38 to go? It was the play that nearly ruined the Jets' playoff hopes.

This time, they actually remembered to cover the tight end, Anthony Fasano. Unlike Donald Strickland, who went the wrong way last year, Pool played it perfectly and deflected the pass, allowing Drew Coleman to make a win-sealing interception.

It was the perfect ending to an imperfect defensive night.

"I don't like to give up anything," Ryan said. "To give up all those things, especially to Miami. … Nothing personal. But, yeah, it's personal."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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