EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — New York Jets defenseman Quinnen Williams stood toe-to-toe with his position coach and yelled at him on the touchline after an all-out blitz that backfired and resulted in a first-quarter touchdown. Later in the locker room, cornerback DJ Reed said the defense had made an “unacceptable” amount of mental error, stating that players and coaches needed to sit down and discuss some issues on the pitch.

The season is only three games long, and the Jets (1-2) seem to be already struggling with defensive dysfunction. You had Williams, arguably the best defensive player, openly questioning the coaching strategy during the game. as well as after a 27–12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. You had Reed, another respected leader, who suggested that the coaches simplify their game plans.

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“It’s frustrating as hell,” coach Robert Saleh said after another error-filled loss when they allowed previously falling quarterback Joe Burrow to go 275 yards and three touchdowns.

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A lasting impression from the game will be Williams, usually mild-mannered, who had to be separated from defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton. This came moments after receiver Tyler Boyd had a 56-yard touchdown to give Cincinnati a 14–6 lead late in the first quarter. It should have been a short win, but Jordan Whitehead, the quarterback, missed a tackle at the 44-yard line. There was no support because the Jets charged into a seven-man attack, leaving no one between Boyd and the end zone.

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Williams later said he was upset because he did not go along with the call from defense coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who calls from the booth. With Ulbrich out of the field, Williams dropped the load on Whitecotton. He felt they didn’t need to blitz; Williams wanted the main responsibility to lie with the front four.

“We have dogs in [defensive line] room, Williams said. “Everyone in the state knows it, everyone in the organization knows it. I trust the D-line so much that “put it on our back to win this game, man.” Do you see what I’m saying? It came from me to just challenge my defensive line coach, like, “Hey, put that on our back, coach.” You know what we have in this room. Like, 4-man rush, we don’t need all this extra blitz. Put it on our backs, and let’s go there and rush.”

But was that all that needed to be done? Williams’ response sounded like the company’s lacquered line. It is worth noting that before meeting with reporters, he spent five minutes with a public relations officer.

Interestingly, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, this was their first seven-man rush of the season. Apparently Ulbrich felt they weren’t putting enough pressure on Burrow with a standard four-man rush because he called in extra rushers for five of the 15 dropbacks in the first quarter – higher than their usual blitz rating. Until the end of the game, he applied additional pressure seven times out of 23 retreats, about the same as in the first quarter. But there were no all-out shots after Williams fell out with his coach.

Saleh saw no reason to publicly berate Williams for his outburst.

“I love fire. I love it all,” he said. “Obviously we don’t need them to fight each other, but he competes so he’s fine.

“He challenged us as coaches to give him a four-on-one so he could go one-on-one, which he deservedly isn’t wrong about.”

Williams isn’t a fiery player, so his performance on the touchline probably resonated more. As he joked later, “I was never like that. I’m not an aggressive person, so people were like, “Oh shit!” He added that he loved Whitecotton and that he talked about it later.

You love passion, but that’s not the best lens for the Jets as a team.

Do you know what bad optics is? Leaving Ja’Marr Chase, one of the best receivers in the NFL, wide open in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. For the third week in a row, rookie defenseman Sauce Gardner was involved in a misunderstanding that resulted in a goal.

The Bengals lined up in an empty formation, with Joe Mixon, running back, lined up far to the right. He pointed to the gap, then ran to the right apartment. Both Gardner and linebacker Quincy Williams covered Mixon, leaving Chase uncovered. It was almost identical to the hype last week about Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper – Gardner’s mistake.

This is Pass Coverage 101. It shouldn’t be that hard.

“This is unacceptable. Thinking errors are unacceptable – for coaches, for players, for everyone involved, including me,” Reed said. “This is unacceptable. We should have a meeting and just talk about everything – are we doing too much, are we talking too much. We have to cut it down. We have to make things right.”

Reid said the meeting would help because players would be able to share their “dilemmas, what we’re struggling with, what’s working and what’s not working.”

A year ago, the Jets finished 32nd defensively because they lacked talent. This is no longer an alibi.