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Historical Defense? Jets' Top Unit Has Been Anything But in 2023

Before the start of the 2023 season, the New York Jets' defense said they wanted to be a historical unit. They have been anything but throughout the year when the organization has needed them most.
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Four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers wanted to join the New York Jets because of the elite defense they had constructed under head coach Robert Saleh. 

Before the season even began, cornerback D.J. Reed and the unit compared the defense they had and the legendary '85 Bears while stating that was the goal for the group in 2023. 

They have been anything but historical this season, though.

On paper, the Jets' defense has been pretty solid this year. They rank in the top 10 defending the pass and have had several Pro Bowl quarterbacks go through their worst games of the year during this season. 

When it comes to being historical though, Gang Green's defense has fallen woefully short. 

It all came to a head on Thursday night in Cleveland. Playing against a familiar face in quarterback Joe Flacco, New York gave up 309 passing yards to the 38-year-old field general, 296 coming in the first half of an eventual 37-20 loss. It was the first time the Jets had allowed a 300-yard passer in 34 games. 

Making matters worse was the four dropped interceptions that ended up turning into four touchdown passes from their former teammate.

"There was a series of — I wouldn’t say miscommunications — just slightly off in regard to technique," said Jets' head coach Robert Saleh. "Like I said, it just wasn’t good enough all the way across the board. I’m looking inward on me in terms of what we can do better on these short week games.”

Being 'slightly off' could be the theme for the 2023 Jets, especially on defense. While no one could blame them for dropping some games throughout the season following Aaron Rodgers' injury, the hype they tried to bring to themselves left performances like on Thursday completely unacceptable. 

If you're going to talk like a historical defense, then the execution needs to be at a historical level. 

There are defenses across NFL history that have been able to hide poor offenses like the one New York possesses this season. 

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens went through multiple quarterback changes and won a Super Bowl. The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers got to the AFC Championship Game without Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, or Rocky Bleier. In 1991, the Philadelphia Eagles went through four different quarterbacks but still managed to go 10-6 without Randall Cunningham for most of the year. 

There are examples of defenses lifting teams to new heights and finding ways to win when the offense is struggling. Those types of units are historical and can be talked about for decades to come. 

Those historical groups have major differences that separate themselves from the units like the one New York has right now. They are disciplined, adjust when needed, and are among the surest tacklers in the game. 

Throughout the 2023 season, Gang Green's top unit has struggled to tackle consistently, has a penchant for being extremely undisciplined, and has given up way too many big plays to be considered among the elite. 

The 2023 Jets' defense can be described as a lot of things but historical or elite just isn't one of them. 

And Thursday's loss to the Browns kind of explains everything you need to know about a good, but not great group. 


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