Jets defense, including coordinator Kacy Rodgers, banged up entering Denver Broncos matchup

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A bad situation has turned worse for the Jets’ defense.

Not only has starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Denver because of a strained groin, but coach Todd Bowles announced at the end of his Friday media briefing that defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers would not be on the sidelines because he’s ill.

Bowles did not provide details, but added: “He’s a tough guy. It’s a serious thing.”

There’s the possibility Bowles, a former defensive coordinator, will assume the defensive play calling or he could turn the duties over to an assistant coach.

“We’ll see,” Bowles said.

Either way, the defense is reeling after last week’s 31-12 loss to Jacksonville, the Jets’ third-straight defeat after an opening night rout of Detroit that must seem like it was months ago to the defense. Blake Bortles, who’ll never be mistaken for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief, the Jaguars’ unheralded wide receivers, both had 100-yard plus games, with Moncrief beating Johnson, the Jets’ $72.5 million offseason pick-up, for a 67-yard touchdown reception.

Johnson’s misery continued Thursday when he suffered the groin injury in practice. When he didn’t practice, he joined tight end Neal Sterling (concussion) and wide receiver Charone Peake (hamstring) on the list of sidelined players.

Buster Skrine, who’ll assume a bigger role with Johnson out, also didn’t work because of a non-injury related reason, but Bowles said Skrine will play against the Broncos.

When Denver has two receivers in the game, Skrine will play cornerback on the opposite side of Morris Claiborne. When the Broncos use multiple receivers, Skrine will go back to being the slot defender and Darryl Roberts, a fourth-year reserve, will move to cornerback.

Bowles describes Roberts as a good tackler who can play man-to-man or zone.

Roberts describes himself as somebody ready to help turn around their season. “After a couple of rough games, we want to get back on track,” he said.

“I’ve had a solid week of practice,” said Roberts. “Coach is always preaching, ‘next man up.”’

What’s a bit surprising in light of its fall off is that the defense, especially in the secondary, still has the swagger it came into the season with.

“We’re not going to change who we are,” safety Marcus Maye said.

So they’ll continue to wear their New Jack City T-shirts and will exhibit their confidence. But the reality is they need to play better, beginning with three home games in a row (Denver, Indianapolis and Minnesota).

“We can play better,” Maye concedes. “We’re losing, we’ve got to fix everything.”

Blocking Von Miller

The No. 1 priority for the Jets’ offense is protecting rookie quarterback Sam Darnold from the pass rush that Broncos superstar Von Miller generates. Miller has 4½ sacks and two forced fumbles in four games and 87½ sacks in his first seven seasons.

Miller will begin the game over right tackle Brandon Shell and eventually will move to the other side and Kelvin Beachum.

“He’s a great athlete,” Shell said. “He’s very shifty, very smooth with what he does.”

And you don’t always know where he’ll be coming from.

“They do a great job of putting him in different positions, whether it’s stunting or blitzing,” Beachum said. “All designed to get him one-on-one.”

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