FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Todd Bowles is a plainspoken guy, so it was no surprise Friday that the Jets coach spoke plainly when someone asked about the challenge of defending Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
"It's a nightmare," he said.
As neatly as that summed up the Jets' respect for Monday night's opponent, now in his fourth season and presumably entering his career prime, they did go into a bit more detail than that.
Said Bowles: "He can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his feet, he can beat you with his brain. We just have to play sound, fundamental football and try to slow him down a little bit."
Said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers: "You're talking about, in our opinion, a top-five quarterback in the NFL and he poses a lot of problems . . . He can get out of trouble, he's strong and when you get there, he's hard to tackle."
Said linebacker Calvin Pace: "He's fearless, and faster than you think, strong, and about the only quarterback who'll throw an interception and go out of his way to make a tackle. I have a lot of respect for him, man, he can play.
"He's in that elite conversation when you talk about quarterbacks."
None of which is to suggest the Jets will cower in fear at the sight of not-so-old No. 12. Rex Ryan's Bills didn't last weekend, with a blitz-heavy attack that led Buffalo to a 27-14 victory in which Luck was 26-for-49 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. That led to a not-so-Luck-y passer rating of 63.6.
Might there be more blitzes in Luck's future Monday? Not necessarily.
"You take a chance if you try to blitz him, and you take a chance if you try to drop eight into coverage and you can't rush him," Rodgers said.
Said Bowles: "Every game is different. You try to get a feel for what they are trying to do to you first and you adjust accordingly . . . It's kind of a chess match at the beginning."
One of the Jets' most important defensive pieces, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, remains uncertain for Monday because of a sprained knee. Bowles said he will have to "see a little more" from him in practice before dressing him.
Asked after practice how he is feeling, Cromartie said, "I'm feeling whatever Todd Bowles said."
Cromartie was listed as limited at practice. Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton (knee) did not practice at all. That could help.
Fortunately for the Jets, they are relatively deep in the defensive secondary. "We're pretty stacked," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We're pretty loaded in the DB unit."
Good thing, under the circumstances. "He's smart, he's poised, he's in total command of the offense," Rodgers said of Luck. "His talent speaks for itself."