The Jets hope familiarity breeds championships, not contempt.
Since the labor impasse and lockout wiped out much of the offseason, most teams are finding themselves scrambling as they try to implement their system prior to the start of the season. There are rookies who must learn the playbook, injured players to blend back into the system and free agents who need to get acclimated to new roles and assignments.
The Jets, however, don’t have that issue. There is a remarkable amount of continuity between this team and the one that has made consecutive AFC Championship Games over the past two seasons.
The defense returns 10 starters and the offense eight players who started in that championship game in Pittsburgh.
“It does help us because we come in here and know the system from the past two years. We understand what we’re supposed to do every day and what roles we play in the bigger picture,” running back Shonn Greene said. “It does help us to know and makes the transition easier.”
It was obvious that the Jets liked the team they had in place at the end of last season and that they envisioned their 53-man roster this year being in many ways a mirror image of the group that finished 2010 with playoff wins in Indianapolis and New England. There are 37 players currently on the team who were on either the practice squad or the 53-man roster last season — a remarkably high level of retention.
Their opponents on Sunday, the Cowboys, have plenty of turnover on their roster as they tried to get on the same page during the six weeks of preseason. The offensive line, for instance, has three new starters.
“We don’t have that problem, so I hope it’s to our advantage,” Ryan said.
That isn’t to say that everything has been seamless.
The one area where the Jets may need to get on the same page is the passing game. While re-signing Santonio Holmes was a priority, they added two wide receivers via free agency in Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason.
It is a task not made an easier by the fact that quarterback Mark Sanchez’s completion percentage was just 55 percent last year. The hope for the Jets is that the veteran wide receivers brought in — Burress is 34 years old and Mason is 37 years old — can use their savvy to make the transition smoother and avoid any major gaffes in Week 1.
“I think having a new group of wide outs has been a good challenge for me, to try and demand out of guys that are much older and much more experienced. They’ve been around this league a long time,” Sanchez said. “And they’ve responded well.”
But the undercurrent around the locker room is that the Jets understand not just why they’re all there, but how they go about getting over the hump to the Super Bowl. Unlike their AFC East rivals, all of whom made big moves and shakeups in the days after the lockout was lifted, the Jets were relatively low-key on the free agent market.
“It really helps this year more than most, because you don’t have to teach a bunch of guys a new system,” guard Matt Slauson said. “Especially along the offensive line, since we’re the only unit that moves as a whole, it is important and we understand how we play together, we understand the offense and how to prepare. It gives us a certain comfort level.”
But can the comfort level lead to wins? The Jets certainly hope so and are talking about being primed for a strong start to the season while other teams are still figuring things out. There is one indicator that this team may not be quite as in-sync as they’d like to think. Last year, through four preseason games, the Jets had 22 penalties for 190 yards.
Through four preseason games this season, the team is top 10 in the league for most penalties, having gotten whistled on 28 occasions for 235 penalty yards. All this familiarity may not be producing the rhythm that the Jets would like to see coming out the gate.
“It’s preseason, sometimes it just happens that you get penalties,” Pouha said. “You just hope that you’re getting them out of the way now, making corrections before the regular season.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for Jets news all season long.