On Jeff Ulbrich’s first day as the Jets’ defensive coordinator, he found his office adorned with a not-so-subtle decoration.
It wasn’t much to look at, but it provided him with a philosophy his new boss lives by.
Waiting for him was a large sign that read “Eliminate Explosives!!” with three bombs drawn at the bottom. It was the handiwork of head coach Robert Saleh.
“So that’s definitely where we all land,” Ulbrich joked, recalling that first day.
Saleh defines explosive plays as passes over 16 yards and runs over 12. The Jets allowed eight of them against the Panthers, highlighted by former Jet Robby Anderson’s 57-yard touchdown catch.
“When offenses can generate an explosive play in a drive, their percentages of scoring are astronomical,” the first-year head coach said on Friday. “It’s almost guaranteed that they’re going to get three points. Two explosives in a drive, you might as well just put seven on the board and kick the ball off. So, the objective is to make them go earn it.”
For the most part, that’s what the Panthers did last Sunday. Star running back Christian McCaffrey produced 187 yards of offense, 98 yards on the ground and 89 through the air, but that was partly by design. Saleh and Ulbrich can live with the opposition dinking and dunking if it means avoiding big plays down the field. The Panthers rolled up 381 yards of offense, but only 19 points.
That’s not to say the Jets were thrilled with their defensive performance at Carolina or that they are content with teams moving the ball down the field against them. They prefer to limit the short plays too.
“We do have this thing called the kill zone. It’s inside five yards and that’s where we’re trying to keep the ball,” Saleh said. “So, the challenge is, can you eliminate explosives while keeping the ball inside four yards or less?”
When Saleh landed the linebackers coach job with the Jaguars in 2014 under head coach Gus Bradley, the organization made a decision that the best way to be successful as a defense was to gear everything toward eliminating explosive plays. It was then that Saleh made the sign that now sits on Ulbrich’s office.
“I know that might be frustrating to some at times because we will give up some stuff, but I’m committed to the fact that you win this game with turnover margin and explosive plays,” Ulbrich said. “Those are the two most telling statistics in this game.”