FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets insisted they weren’t listening when all the talk was about how awful they’d be this season.
Now that they’re one of the NFL’s early season surprises at 2-2 and favored by some to beat winless Cleveland, they’re not buying into that hype, either.
“We’re not good enough to look past anybody,” coach Todd Bowles said Thursday. “Really, we’re not. We just work every day to get better from the week before.”
That’s the dose of reality Bowles provides his players at every opportunity, saying earlier this week that the Jets have no reason to get “big-headed” despite consecutive wins over Miami and Jacksonville.
“We’re 2-2, we’re .500,” Bowles said. “That’s nothing to brag about. We have to get better in a lot of areas each week. We made some mistakes in the Jacksonville game (that) we have to get better at, and we have to keep building.”
After all, the Jets still rank 29th in run defense and have only six sacks this season. Their passing offense is 26th and hardly strikes fear into defenses.
But at 0-4, the Browns are a desperate opponent — one that likely expected a better start after a 1-15 season a year ago. Cleveland is 2-29 since an overtime win at Baltimore — led by current Jets quarterback Josh McCown — and that matches the worst 31-game stretch in league history.
Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer leads the NFL with eight interceptions and he also has the NFL’s worst quarterback rating at 36.3.
So, the Jets should be licking their chops, right? After all, the AFC East is wide open with New England off to a surprisingly mediocre start at 2-2, Miami sitting at 1-2 and Buffalo leading the division at 3-1.
“We don’t care about that,” defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. “We worry about Cleveland right now. We don’t care about the Patriots, Miami or anybody. It’s about this week, and that’s Cleveland.”
That’s the focus, on making sure the Browns don’t get their first victory against them. And that possibility could make some teams worry about playing a hungry opponent.
“I’m not afraid, are you?” Wilkerson said with a grin. “Nobody’s afraid. We’re going to execute and do our jobs. We don’t care about their record. That’s not up to us. We’re not worried about that. We worry about the Jets and doing our jobs.”
The Jets are still that team that many fans and media pegged as a shoo-in for the No. 1 overall draft pick next spring. Someone anonymously sent a not-so-subtle reminder of the dismal preseason prognostications, printing out copies of a headline from one web site that said the Jets would go 0-16 this season and leaving them on each player’s stool.
The players have said for months that they couldn’t care less about what people outside the facility had to say about them. But, they’ve all talked about the doubters — and used it as fuel.
“What I love most about our team is how united we are,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said, “and how good we’re playing together and how good we’re playing for one another.”
That said, the Jets are certainly a confident bunch, but in no way are they relieved that they have two more victories than many people thought they would at this point — and, for some, the entire season.
“You don’t get to relax until the season is over,” Bowles said. “We’re more aware of things and we’re getting experience as we go, but they’re not relaxed.”
NOTES: The Jets waived TE Neal Sterling, perhaps creating a spot on the active roster for WR Jalin Marshall, who was suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers. It’s also a sign that rookie TE Jordan Leggett could be close to making his NFL debut after being sidelined since the preseason with a foot injury. … Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers highlighted the fact that the Jets’ defense is 29th against the run, hoping to motivate his players. “I’m just pointing out where we stood,” he said. “One, I know we have a lot of prideful guys in that room, and I just wanted them to know that’s an area we have to improve. Each week as a defense we talk about getting better every week, and that’s an area that steadily needs to improve.”