JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2017 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Jets senior reporter and team insider Eric Allen on the Jets as they enter Sunday's game against the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Question: The Jets lost their first two games this season before surprising many observers with a 20-6 home victory over the Miami Dolphins Sunday. So, where is this team after two games? What can the Jaguars expect?
Answer: After Sunday's domination of the Dolphins, [Jets quarterback] Josh McCown spoke to the media and said the foundation of the win was halftime of the [45-20] loss to Oakland [the previous week]. He said the guys were accountable in that situation and taking ownership. While the score was definitely out of hand, we saw a lot of improvement [in the second half] against the Raiders – specifically offensively. The Jets had some third-down success. They ran the ball for five yards a carry. They got a shot down the field and scored. Entering the game against Miami, [Jets Head Coach] Todd Bowles said he was confident the team would correct its mistakes defensively. The run defense was on point all day and they forced [Dolphins quarterback Jay] Cutler to get the ball out and they [the Dolphins] couldn't do anything in the air. That was by far the defense's best effort. On the other side of the ball, McCown has played very well through the first three games even though they lost the first two games. All in all, McCown has been a steadying presence for the offense. Were most people surprised how convincing the Miami victory was? Yes, but I would say there was a quiet confidence about this team before they played the Dolphins. They expected to win that game.
Q: The Jets are perceived nationally as playing for the 2018 season. Professional football players don't think that way. Is that a point of contention for this team?
A: They get sick of answering questions about it; there's no doubt about that. Those guys don't think that way. And it's interesting: [Jets Chief Executive Officer and Chairman] Christopher Johnson said last week he's not a patient man. He wants to win. He understands there will be growing pains along the way, but he echoed what [Jets Owner] Woody Johnson said in January: "We're going to do this differently. We're going to develop in-house talent." The average years of experience on the roster this year is 3.7. There are three guys on the roster over 30. There is the expectation internally that there are going to be growing pains, but the talent on this roster … they don't see it inside the locker room. There are some interesting pieces here and what Todd Bowles said of the defense early on was, "We can get this thing fixed." A lot of people rolled their eyes about it, but you saw them take some steps Sunday. Organizationally, the team is ignoring the noise even though it's there.
Q: What's the hope for the Jets this season? When it's playing well, what kind of team do you see it being?
A: It's the team you saw against Miami. Are they going to be able to score 30 points each week? That might be asking too much. We know that. But it's a team that if it plays sound defensive football, if it can stop the run, can play well. Pass rushing is going to be an evolution for this team; you don't have that traditional edge pass rusher. That's why they brought in [defensive end] Kony Ealy. They're going to use him at times as an outside linebacker, but they're listing him as a defensive end. In your sub packages, he's the guy who's going to give you that production off the edge. If this team offensively can give you 20-to-23 points a week, you're obviously going to win some games – a lot more than people on the outside think you can win. It looks like a team that's learning how to finish. They finished on Sunday.
Q: Is it too simplistic to say that [defensive end] Leonard Williams and [rookie safety] Jamal Adams are the core pieces this team hopes to build around defensively?
A: I don't think that's too simplistic. Leonard Williams is one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He was really good last year and I think he's taking another step this season. He's stout against the run and he's a guy who can get to the quarterback from that interior position. Adams is one of those energy players. He plays the game with so much exuberance – and you can see the connection with the fans early on. He made plays Sunday in coverage down the field. He gets bothered by people saying he's just a box safety. He'll come up and play the run, but he can drop back.
Q: So, it sounds like the defense has a chance to be solid – and the key to the season may be how much the offense can develop?
A: I think that's fair to say. Going into the season you thought, "OK, the defense is going to keep you in a lot of games." Well, early on the offense was giving you more production and more consistency. We finally saw the defense turn in a consistent effort Sunday. Now, if this offense can continue to develop and McCown can still play a high level … yeah, they're going to win some games. There's no doubt about it. This is a fascinating matchup because they're going to be tested against the run again. If they can be consistent against the run, I would imagine they will be in every game.