Jets' Jeff Ulbrich on defense: ‘We’re not going to make huge fundamental changes'

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Jets Jeff Ulbrich practice Jarrad Davis kneeling
Jets Jeff Ulbrich practice Jarrad Davis kneeling

While the headlines around the Jets have been about the quarterback position, the team’s defense has become something that can't be ignored.

After a promising start to the season, the defense has been shredded of late, giving up at least 45 points in three of the last four games. With a defensive-minded head coach at the helm and the regression of the defense, there are some concerns.

While the team has had a lot of injuries to key players like safety Marcus Maye, the lack of adjustments in-game especially during the Jets’ 45-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills has shined a bad light on the defense. But defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is not willing to make major changes just yet.

“I’ve been around struggling teams before in both capacities where you can lose absolute belief in anything if you start [making big changes]. Then you are just guessing and I don’t think that’s how you can get prolonged success in this league,” Ulbrich told the media after Thursday’s practice. “You gotta build a foundation. You need to have the stuff you know inside and out and the guys can articulate the issues and anticipate the issues and absolutely own their techniques, assignments and all that stuff.

“If you start to pull this and that and put bandaids on everything we’ll get good at nothing. Do we need to tweak the system? Absolutely. Is in-season the time to tweak it? I don’t know. We tweak, but an overhaul, new defense I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”

Ulbrich has been in the league as a player and coach since 2000, but unlike first-year head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur this isn’t his first assignment leading a team’s defense. The 44-year-old was the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive coordinator in 2020 after being promoted to the position when Raheem Morris took the interim coaching job midseason.

The Falcons ended the season 4-12, but Ulbrich elevated the defense from last in the NFL in scoring and total defense to 16th. That obviously helped him get the job in New York, but his defense has been under fire following another poor performance on Sunday. However, any calls for wholesale changes to the defense won’t likely come until the offseason.

“Tweaks, whether they’re part of the system moving forward, that's something that we'll assess at the end of the year and this offseason to make this the best possible defense that we have,” Ulbrich said. “We’re not going to make huge fundamental changes and I know that might piss some people off because they’re like, ‘change it, it’s all sh---y.’ But there are some base fundamentals that we’re getting better at.

“Is that reflected on Sunday? No, not right now. It’s not delivering the type of results to be successful in this league and ultimately wins are how we are all judged and it’s not good enough. It's a better question for the offseason where we reassess what we did well, not do well, what we want to keep in our packages and what we want to kibosh.”

The Jets' next test will be against the 3-7 Miami Dolphins, who are coming off an inspired win over the then 6-2 Baltimore Ravens on the road on Thursday night.