Jets' Sutton working to find answers with struggling defense Print
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Friday, 19 October 2007 12:39
NFL Headline News

 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Bob Sutton has developed a thick skin during his coaching career.
It's a good thing, too, because many fans and the media have been on his case for most of his two seasons as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator.
``Coaches are no different than players,'' Sutton said Friday. ``You put a lot of time and effort in and you want to win. If you don't get the result you want, it's disappointing, but at the same time, if you believe in the pillars and things that you really believe in, those are the things I think that have to stay constant.''
Sutton and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer meet with the media on alternating Fridays, and both have come under fire for their units underperforming and having mental lapses. With a 1-5 start, there's been plenty to find fault with.
``Like I tell the players all the time, there are no quantum leaps in this deal,'' Sutton said. ``It's inches. It's me as an individual coach improving 1 percent. It's a DB improving 1 percent.''
Sutton, 56, speaks in calm tones as he peers over his glasses with his steely, blue eyes. His white hair and friendly smile give him a calming, grandfatherly appearance. He likes to talk at length about defense and his philosophies, and has a successful football resume to back it up.
Sutton has been a coach since 1972, when he was a graduate assistant at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, and made various stops at the college level before he became the defensive coordinator at Army and then the head coach from 1991-99. He joined the Jets as the linebackers coach in 2000 and was promoted to defensive coordinator by Eric Mangini before last season.
Mangini installed a 3-4 base defense that he brought with him from New England, and Sutton had to adjust.
``It wasn't hard because I've been in 3-4 systems before,'' Sutton said. ``I was here in 2000 and basically doing the same system and in college, and that was kind of my background, so that part hasn't changed.''
The biggest effect the change had was on the players. Sutton and Mangini were highly criticized for using the 3-4 with the Jets' personnel, which many so-called football experts deemed not suitable for that type of scheme.
``The most difficult thing is to invest and not get the returns you'd like,'' Sutton said.
Players like Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton struggled to feel comfortable in the system, but the Jets buckled down in the second half of last season and were one of the league's stingiest defenses.
Poor play has seeped back in, though. The Jets are ranked 28th in overall defense - 27th against the pass and 23rd against the rush.
``I was just talking upstairs with Vilma and Kerry (Rhodes) about this,'' Sutton said. ``You'd like to just turn a button and it's all fixed. That just isn't how it works.''
Especially when poor tackling has been one of the prime culprits. Last week, Philadelphia's Kevin Curtis avoided two tackle attempts and turned a short pass into a 75-yard touchdown. The play was the difference in the Jets' 16-9 loss.
``You have to tackle,'' Sutton said. ``You're not going to be good on defense if you don't tackle well.''
So, Mangini and Sutton reverted to some training camp tackling drills the past two weeks. The Jets also need more pressure on the quarterback. They had three sacks against Philadelphia last Sunday, doubling their total from the first five games combined.
``My emphasis is always stay the course, keep doing the things that you know are going to give us an opportunity to win,'' Sutton said. ``And if we do that, as hard as it seems ... that is how you're going to win.''
Some have wondered if Mangini, a former defensive coordinator himself, would become more of a factor in the defensive game planning because of the unit's struggles.
``For me, it's a great sounding board,'' Sutton said, adding that Mangini hasn't altered his input. ``He understands our issues that we're trying to do. It's a great in-house resource for me and, obviously, he's the head coach. If he wants to do something, we're going to do it.''
The Jets clearly need to get better on defense in a hurry if they expect to compete for a playoff spot.
``You've got to improve the little things because there's not a lot of difference between winning and losing in this league,'' Sutton said. ``That's what you can't lose track of when you're not being successful.''
 

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