The underlying perception facing the Jets after Aaron Rodgers’ injury revolves around their defense — the one cornerback D.J. Reed previously described as “historical” — needing to carry them in games with Zach Wilson, who currently teeters along the fine line between first-round bust and serviceable starter, as their signal-caller.
But that’s “absolutely not” the case, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Thursday, and his players agree.
They think Wilson and coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can orchestrate a successful offense just like Rodgers would have before sustaining a season-ending Achilles tear.
They believe in every position — the receivers, the offensive linemen, the running backs — around Wilson, too.
“When we come out there, our objective is to hold the other team to no points, if possible,” Quinton Jefferson, who had two sacks in the Jets’ 22-16 overtime victory Monday against the Bills, told The Post. “We just out there doing our job, regardless of who the quarterback was. We all take pride in being the best defense.”
In Week 1, the Jets forced four turnovers — three interceptions, one fumble — and sacked Josh Allen five times en route to 12 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.
Quinnen Williams, who became the anchor of the defensive line with a $96 million contract in the offseason, said the Jets have tried to eliminate the “outside noise or the outside narrative” that, in part, suggests the unit that surrendered the fourth-fewest yards (311.1) and points (18.6) per game in 2022 has acquired the new expectation of keeping the team afloat again.
“I think we’re getting better every single day,” Williams said Thursday. “I think we got a lot of stuff to clean up. I think we’re just scratching the surface on what we can be.”
Monday’s game served as the first sample of how effective their defensive line depth could be, too.
At one point in the second half, when Jefferson jogged onto the field for a package that gave Williams and John Franklin-Myers a rest, he noticed a Bills offensive lineman looked exhausted.
Jefferson kept thinking about the players scattered across the Jets’ defense who’d already impacted possessions, and when those stops strung together — over and over and over again — opponents became exhausted.
Defensive linemen kept “coming in waves,” he said.
“I’m like, ‘Man, we got some guys,’ ” added Jefferson, who signed with the Jets in the offseason.
Against the Bills, when limiting the Allen-led offense to three points in the second half and overtime, the Jets’ defense bailed out Wilson as he gradually manufactured a comeback.
They’ll have to do the same Sunday against a Cowboys team that crushed the Giants by 40 points in their opener, too.
But a new opposing quarterback in Dak Prescott doesn’t change anything.
The Jets’ new quarterback doesn’t matter in their eyes, either.
“We got a special group,” Jefferson said, and that, to them at least, is more than enough.
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