Jets on historic pace for penalties, which explains the tennis balls

Coach Todd Bowles is willing to try just about anything to help cure his team's penalty epidemic. In recent weeks, the New York Jets' defensive backs have been holding tennis balls during practice drills.

"Sometimes defensive backs, when they get handsy, you put tennis balls in their hands so they don’t get as handsy," Bowles said. "It’s just a normal defensive-back technique."

If the Jets used a prop to combat each type of penalty problem, they'd be carrying around a lot of weird stuff in practice.

With 81 accepted penalties for 739 yards, the Jets are on pace to shatter the franchise record for most penalty yardage in a season. After 10 games, they're projected at 1,182 yards. The record is 1,078 yards in 1995, Rich Kotite's first season as coach. As I've said many times, you never want to be associated with anything from the Kotite era.

With 81 penalties, the Jets are on a 130-penalty pace, which would fall just shy of the franchise record (135 in 1987). This, too, is an insulting comparison because '87 was the strike year, when replacement players were used for three games.

"The penalties are definitely a frustrating thing," defensive end Leonard Williams said. "We've been putting ourselves in some bad situations with penalties, getting backed up on offense or giving up third-down situations on defense."

Let's take a closer look at the penalty crisis with some not-so-fun facts:

The main culprit: Cornerback Buster Skrine has been flagged 11 times for 96 yards, both of which are the second-most in the league among individual players. His most frequently-called penalty is defensive holding (three times). The tennis-ball drill probably was designed for him.

Main culprits on offense: Guard Brian Winters has accumulated eight calls, a high number for an interior lineman. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has seven, including five holding calls.

Truly a team effort: You can't blame the offense or the defense; the problem belongs to every unit. Of the 96 penalties (including those declined), the offense has 45, the defense 44 and special teams seven. By the way, 96 is the second-most in the league, trailing the Seattle Seahawks (112).

Ouch: When the Jets get flagged, it usually stings. Why? Because they lead the league in penalties that result in first downs for the opponent (35).

Lousy timing: The only thing worse than a penalty is a penalty in a bad situation. The Jets know this all too well because they have 31 on third down (second-most) and 13 in the final two minutes of a half (third-most).

Some good news: The Jets haven't committed a lot of pre-snap penalties -- only 20 (18th-most). This indicates that focus isn't a problem. Hey, it's something.