Vilma: 'They're a perfect fit for their team'

The Jets are currently 25th in the NFL in total offense and 31st overall in total defense, yet they still have a winning record at 5-4 and are in the AFC playoff picture. Jonathan Vilma, their do-everything middle linebacker, is a big reason why. Vilma spoke with the Chicago media via conference call at Halas Hall on Wednesday, and Bear Report was there to hear what he had to say.

If you simply look at the numbers, the New York Jets have no business being 5-4.

Offensively, the tailback duo of Kevan Barlow and Leon Washington has been good, but there is no question that this team misses the veteran production of Curtis Martin. Quarterback Chad Pennington has enjoyed a solid comeback season after years of shoulder troubles, but the team is still only putting up 179.2 passing yards per game, just 23rd in the league. Receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have been a dynamic duo with 92 combined receptions, but no other player has caught more than 16 passes.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets are second from the bottom in total defense. They have struggled both against the run (28th) and the pass (21st). They are having a miserable time getting to the quarterback and only have 17 sacks as a team. Pass-rush specialist John Abraham - traded to Atlanta before the season - has been missed.

Jonathan Vilma, on the other hand, continues to establish himself as one of the premier linebackers in football. The former Hurricane leads the team in tackles and also has an interception on the season. Miami has produced a ton of talent at the linebacker position over the years, and Vilma has the ability to be as good as any of them.

Vilma seems impressed with what he sees of the Bears offense on film and finds their style very befitting on a Chicago team.

"The Bears offense is a legit offense," Vilma said on Wednesday. "They're very good, headed by Rex Grossman, of course. They have a very good running game in Thomas Jones. They know how to move the ball well. They're very efficient, and they're a perfect fit for their team."

The Jets could be due for a letdown after last Sunday's emotional upset of the Patriots in Foxboro, but Vilma says that his team will be ready for the Bears.

"It won't be hard to come back from it simply because the game was only one game," he explained. "It was one victory out of 16. Granted, it was a good victory, and it was an important one. So we have a lot more work to do. We're not looking back. We're looking forward and getting ready for this week's game coming up.'

First-year head coach Eric Mangini and former front man Herman Edwards are obviously different coaches with different ways of going about their business, but Vilma says that there hasn't been a remarkable change in the Jets franchise as a whole.

"Not much of a difference," he said. "Some of the [coaches], especially on the defensive side, were here when Herman Edwards was here. So not much difference there. Between the two coaches, different styles, different philosophies. [Mangini is] putting his to work right now."

This Jets team is playing much better than last year's squad that limped to the finish line, and Vilma believes that's more a product of a solid group of rookies and quality additions in free agency.

"The difference in the attitude mainly comes from last year," he said. "What we went through last year, we don't want to repeat that. We have a very good rookie class that came in, a lot of free agents that came in that are doing a great job for us."

Jets fans are hungry for a winner and have been for quite some time, so Vilma was asked if the team's supporters are losing their patience.

"I don't know if they're desperate," he said, "but they certainly are longing for those glory days when Joe Namath was here. We're trying to give it to them, and we just got to keep winning."

Jets Nation - unlike ESPN's Suzy Kolber - may be longing for Namath, but Vilma stopped short of guaranteeing a victory this Sunday at the Meadowlands.

JC


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