Jeff Ulbrich searching for answers to Jets’ defense: ‘It hurts’

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The Jets spent another Monday searching for answers for what happened to them in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, particularly on defense. 

Philadelphia rolled up 418 yards and 33 points, all with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew at the helm. It has become a familiar feeling for the Jets’ defense this season. It is the worst defense in the NFL in yards and points allowed and every time the unit takes a step forward, it then take two steps back. 

“It hurts,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Monday. “I’m a prideful person and I put a lot into it and the players put everything they’ve got into it as well. We don’t work our [butts] off like we do to have the results that we’ve been having. Is it frustrating? Absolutely frustrating. It hurts the soul.” 

The Jets looked like they had no answers for the Eagles. Minshew completed his first 11 passes and connected with tight end Dallas Goedert for two touchdowns in the first half. The Jets allowed only field goals in the second half, but the Eagles still managed to score on their first seven possessions. 

Jets
Jeff Ulbrich’s unit ranks dead last in yards and points allowed.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Jets players admitted that they had prepared for Eagles starter Jalen Hurts all week, but Hurts missed the game with an ankle injury. The Jets looked unprepared for Minshew. Jets coaches and players downplayed that idea Monday, saying they prepared for the Eagles’ offense and not specific players. 

“We prepared for the Philadelphia Eagles and their offense,” Ulbrich said. “Minshew and Jalen are very similar. They’re both mobile. Schematically, they didn’t really change what they did. … It was what we were ready for.” 

Ulbrich pointed to missed tackles (15 by his count), a failure against run-pass option plays and struggling to stop the run as the Jets’ biggest issues on Sunday. The Jets allowed 185 yards on the ground, the third time this season they have given up more than 150 yards rushing. 

“You have to eliminate some part of an offense and try to make them as one-dimensional as you can,” Ulbrich said. “We have not done that well enough, by any means. There’s games where we’ve played the run well. There’s spots within games where we’ve played the run well. But just consistently as you really look at the season as a whole, we’re not defending it as well as we need to to be successful. The minute you’ve got your running game rolling, you’ve got your play-action game rolling, anything’s at your disposal. It’s something we have to do better. We’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to find more answers schematically for the players and the players have to play it better.” 

The defense had played better in recent weeks against the Dolphins and Texans, but that may have been more of a reflection on the opponents rather than the Jets’ defense. Sunday felt like a return to the form the defense showed when it gave up 175 points over a four-game stretch in October and November. 

“I wouldn’t say it was a step backward,” linebacker Quincy Williams said. “It was more like a realization, a wake-up call. In close games like that or when you start slow in the first half, you’ve got to be more consistent than anything, get off on third down, give the offense the ball for more opportunities to score. That’s the main thing.” 

Jets coach Robert Saleh made his reputation in the NFL calling defenses, but he has not taken over the play-calling from Ulbrich. Saleh credited the Eagles on Monday. 

“I thought our defense was fighting their tails off,” Saleh said. “That’s a really good football team, a really good offensive line. Did we miss opportunities? Absolutely. Credit to them for being patient, being deliberate the way they called their game, the way they leaned on us. There were opportunities to be had. When you get presented with those opportunities, you have to strike otherwise what happened [Sunday] is going to happen. They can just bleed out the clock and make something look really, really bad when it wasn’t world-ending.” 

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