FLORHAM PARK — Maurice Jones-Drew never had a chance.
Quinton Coples met him in the backfield almost as soon as he took the handoff. He was unblocked. Unimpeded. Unobstructed.
The Jets linebacker sped past a pulling guard and wrapped up Jones-Drew with such force that he sent the running back falling backward. The football popped out of his arms, and he accidentally punted it into the air as he fell to the turf.
It landed in the arms of quarterback Derek Carr on the fly eight yards behind him, a play worthy of a “good poster,” according to Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
“Your eyes just get big and you wait for the results,” Coples said of the hit. “You just know something crazy is going to happen.”
That play illustrates just how formidable — and fearsome — the Jets’ talented front seven can be against the run.
They allowed only 25 rushing yards (on 15 carries) in their victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders, the NFL low in Week 1. But the Jets face a stiff test in Green Bay this weekend in running back Eddie Lacy and the Packers (0-1). Last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year is listed as probable after suffering a concussion in Week 1.
The Jets (1-0) say they’re ready after yielding the fewest rushing yards in a game in the Rex Ryan era and the least since November 2006.
They finished No. 3 in rush defense (88.2) last season, holding opponents to a league-low 3.4 yards per carry.
“We want to be No. 1 in every defensive category. We want to be the best defense,” lineman Leger Douzable said. “We’ve come out and said it in the paper plenty of times. Now it’s time for us to prove it.”
But the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Lacy represents a step up in competition.
As a rookie, he ran for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. And the Packers finished seventh in the NFL in rushing in 2013 (133.5 yards per game).
“He’s a big power back, but he’s a spinner, too,” Ryan said. “Most big backs are just boom, straight-ahead, no fare-dodging. … But he’ll also spin out of tackles as well.”
Lacy is a special back.
But Coples made a special play on Sunday in a game in which the Jets produced a special defensive performance (only 158 yards allowed).
Something will have to give.
“For a guy to get hit and kick the ball at least 30 yards up in the air and go back 10, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Douzable said.
It is the kind of play the Jets want to make. The kind they can watch on film and marvel at. The kind that is remembered.
“At the end of the year that’s when you look to see if you accomplished your mission — when you see big plays like that,” Richardson said. “Highlights.”
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