New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles stands on the sidelines in the first quarter of a preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on August 26, 2017. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If you're so inclined, you can actually wager legally in Las Vegas sportsbooks on the first NFL coach to be fired this season.
While the odds vary from place to place, Jets head coach Todd Bowles can usually be found in the top-5 or 6 on the list, although not at the top of any.
In most places, that honor goes to the Colts' Chuck Pagano or the Bengals' Marvin Lewis.
But more dismal play from the Jets, especially on defense, in the next four weeks could see the 53-year-old Bowles become the odds-on favorite to join the unemployment line.
Why four weeks? Because if the Jets don't get their first win in the next three, it's unlikely they will in the fourth.
The Jets play three of their next four games at home.
The home opener is Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, who made the playoffs last season but is a bit of a wild card with the ever-enigmatic Jay Cutler at quarterback and only one game under their belts due to Hurricane Irma.
Miami won when the Chargers missed a field goal with five seconds left.
After that is a visit from the Jaguars, who seem to be improved this season but, even after a win in Houston to open the season, are 3-20 in road games started by Blake Bortles.
Then comes a trip to Cleveland to face the Browns, who have won only one of their last 20 games dating to 2015. It's a game some predict could determine who gets the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
And finally, there's a visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
"I've seen a lot and I've been around these guys quite a bit, and I have every confidence in the world," Bowles said Monday in a conference call.
The main thing Bowles, and everyone else, has seen is a once-stout run defense turn quite porous.
The Jets were second in the league against the run in 2015, Bowles' first season, but slipped to 11th last year and they're last this season, having allowed 190 rushing yards through two games.
Not surprisingly, the team is 5-13 since the start of last year.
Yes, primary run-stuffers from the bygone era like Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson either weren't re-signed or were traded. But lack of talent excuse only goes so far if even lesser teams start carving up your defense.
Bowles, a former NFL safety, coached on the defensive side for 15 seasons in the NFL before getting the Jets job.
Most of that was spent working with secondaries, but Bowles' task with the Jets is up front, especially with defensive tackle Steve McLendon and defensive ends Leonard Williams, Mo Wilkerson and Kony Ealy, who have combined for no sacks and three tackles for a loss through two games.
"Very surprised," McLendon said earlier this week about the run defense. "But we and the other D-linemen, we take great pride in it. We're trying to correct it and we're trying to correct it now. We're not trying to let this linger ... ."
It might linger though, as Jay Ajayi comes to town fresh off 122 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries against the Chargers.
Although he's not a defender, quarterback Josh McCown probably summed it up best when he said the Jets have to "continue to show the improvement and the signs of improvement, so at some point -- and we hope it's this week -- we start playing the kind of football that we know we're capable of playing."
Because, if they don't, it could mean an early pink slip for coach Bowles.
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd regular-season meeting. Jets lead series, 53-48-1. Last season, the Dolphins won both games against their AFC East rivals for the first time since 2009, including a 34-13 victory in Week 15 behind four passing touchdowns from Matt Moore filling in for an injured Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins, who are 5-2 at MetLife Stadium, won the only postseason meeting between the two teams, 14-0, in the 1982 AFC Championship Game at the Orange Bowl in a game that has become known as the "Mud Bowl."
The Jets waived punt and kick returner Kalif Raymond on Tuesday. Raymond muffed a punt in Sunday's loss to the Raiders that gave Oakland the ball on the Jets' 4-yard line with 1:50 left in the first half. The Raiders scored three plays later to take a 21-10 lead.
The 23-year-old out of Holy Cross was in his first season with the Jets after playing for the Broncos last year. He also muffed two punts Week 1 against the Bills, but the Jets recovered both.
"I'm not going to give any excuses," Raymond said after the game. "You've got to catch the ball. On a punt return, you got to do it. That's one of the easier kicks of the game that I took for granted."
Jeremy Kerley, the Jets' main punt returner from 2011-15, is the main candidate to take over that role. Kerley and rookie Elijah McGuire could also be called upon to return kickoffs, head coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday.
"The main job of a punt returner is to secure the ball," coach Todd Bowles said.
Jets owner Woody Johnson ceded day-to-day control of the team to his brother, Christopher, this summer when the United States Senate confirmed Woody as the country's ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday for the first time, Christopher Johnson said the Jets "are definitely not tanking," to get the first pick in the draft.
"It couldn't be further from the truth," he added. "I want to win every game. Every player in that locker room wants to win. What you're seeing, I think, are growing pains. ... I think you're going to see this team get better and better and better."
Christopher Johnson went on to say he will not evaluate Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan solely on wins and loses, but rather progress the team makes over the course of the season.
And that he alone will be making team decisions. Woody won't be a part of them.
"He has a full-time job over there," Christopher said about his older brother. "We are not discussing football."
NOTES: DE Mo Wilkerson (bruised shoulder), WR Robby Anderson (knee), RG Brian Winters (abdomen), OLB Freddie Bishop (ankle) and C Jonotthan Harrison (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. All five are listed as questionable for Sunday, as is S Rontez Miles (eye), who was limited. ... DL Claude Pelon was re-signed to the practice squad on Tuesday. ... TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is scheduled to return to action Sunday after serving a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. TEs Eric Tomlinson (elbow), Jordan Leggett (knee) and Neal Sterling (knee) all missed Wednesday's practice. The only other TE the Jets have on the active roster is Will Tye. ... QB Christian Hackenberg will likely be inactive as the No. 3 quarterback as long as Josh McCown and Bryce Petty remain healthy, according to head coach Todd Bowles.