FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Take a dose of injuries, add a measure of disciplinary action, blend in guys who were new to an NFL game. And the result is a major mess.
Or you could call it the Jets’ secondary, the area Tom Brady carved up with precision and four touchdowns Sunday in the Patriots’ 38-3 ritualistic rout at Gillette Stadium in what was the final game of Todd Bowles’ Jets coaching tenure.
In the morning Sunday, it was revealed the Jets’ $72.5 million free-agent signing, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, would be benched for disciplinary reasons. Johnson, who by his own admission has been “mediocre” in the first season of his five-year deal, was late Wednesday and did not practice that day. So he was a healthy scratch. But even in mediocrity, he would have helped on the field.
“Coach’s decision. Wanted to see the young guys play,” Bowles said in explaining his move.
Asked if it were a disciplinary move, Bowles maintained the “coach’s decision” explanation.
So no sense asking about cornerback Darryl Roberts, who was limited to special teams, reportedly also for disciplinary reasons.
“I wanted to see Tez’s [Rontez Miles] play when he’s the bigger guy when they ran the ball,” Bowles fibbed, oh, sorry, said.
Johnson seemed contrite afterward, admitted he was “sad” about the whole incident but stressed it was a coach’s decision. He learned of the discipline “right before warmups,” he said.
“Like I said, it was coach’s decision, and I got to live with it,” Johnson said. “I was sad, of course. Like I said, I want to be out there with my teammates, so I apologize to them.”
Johnson stressed his infraction was not a recurring thing and that, “I was late on Wednesday” and only Wednesday. But this was not the way he wanted to end up the season.
“[With] my [quad] injury and with this, it’s a bad look, and I can own up to that [and] come back stronger next year.”
The Jets used a makeshift alignment, with injuries having scrapped the services of Marcus Maye and Morris Claiborne.
“I think we did pretty good for the most part for all of us to be thrown out there and a lot of guys being the first time playing. It’s a young team with small things you’ve got to fix and it comes with time, it comes with age. It’s hard to win young,” Miles said.
Teammates stood by Johnson and defended the unfamiliar, inexperienced alignments that had Brady’s eyes opened wide.
“On our team it’s next man up. It is what it is. Whoever’s in there, everybody’s professional so you deserve to play when you get a chance to play,” Buster Skrine said.
Safety Jamal Adams, who openly called for an offseason upgrade in talent, defended Johnson.
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“I definitely feel for Tru. I know he wanted to be out there with us. Obviously he made a mistake. … I’m not the person to judge,” Adams said. “He owned up to his mistake and he understands what comes with it. But at the end of the day, Derrick Jones stepped up. He did a phenomenal job.”
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Adams said. “But at the same time we have guys who stepped up and did a phenomenal job. What people didn’t see is that Tru was on the sidelines coaching everybody up.”
But the Jets needed more than sideline coaching Sunday.