The New York Jets are in a fighting mood, and head coach Todd Bowles couldn’t be more thrilled.
As the AFC East is seemingly wide open, the Jets have the look of the division’s new bully. No one is crowning them yet, and the New England Patriots are still the clear frontrunners, but it doesn’t sound so insane anymore to say that Gang Green is a legitimate threat to the Patriots’ reign.
New York was a Ryan Fitzpatrick Buffalo-flameout away from making the playoffs, last season. And while there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen again at the most inopportune time, Fitzpatrick is still the team’s best shot under center and had the type of season, last year, that was comparable to even Tom Brady.
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The Jets have gone through camp this year with a certain swagger. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that they’ve returned almost every key player from its 10-6 squad. The swagger, mixed with an infusion of talent, plus the ornery nature of its two best players, wideout Brandon Marshall and cornerback Darrelle Revis, is a great blend.
Bowles noted after the duo’s much-publicized fight that he “loved” it. The Jets are trying to brandish a trademark of being the division’s newest bully. They are the best threat to New England, considering the Miami Dolphins are seemingly stuck in the 7-9, 8-8 zone, and the Buffalo Bills talk a great game, thanks to blustery head coach Rex Ryan, but have yet to back his bravado.
Gang Green’s players have certainly attached themselves to their head coach’s quiet confidence, and also think the raised aggression is a good thing.
“We see it all as good competition. It’s football. There’s going to be some tension,” said second-year defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who added that he actually enjoyed the competitive tone that Marshall and Revis set. “I think it’s sparked a fire in us. Seeing guys who have been here for so many years and still going so hard in practice is uplifting. Everybody is going faster and playing more physical … so, we actually see it as a good thing.”
What’s also a good thing is a defense that should help perpetuate the bully mentality and wreak havoc on the division and around the league. The secondary still has Revis, and a healthy competition to see who lines alongside him. The linebackers feature the always-solid David Harris, who hasn’t missed a game in seven years, veteran Erin Henderson, second-year standout Lorenzo Mauldin, and rookie Darron Lee. And the defensive line features a rotation that includes the likes of Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Steve McLendon, and Sheldon Richardson – a unit that ranked them second against the rush (83.4 yards), last season.
With so many stars, solid vets, and hungry neophytes battling daily, practices have turned into alpha-male exhibitions – and that’s a good thing, according to the players. This is a win-now roster, and the sense of urgency is definitely there, because the Jets are a seasoned team that knows their window is ajar just enough.
And if they’re able to get through a brutal six-game opening stretch that includes five playoff teams from a year ago (Cincinnati, Kansas City, Seattle Pittsburgh, and Arizona) and a Bills squad that swept them last season, the Jets will be poised to make a serious run at the division crown.
Gang Green notes:
-The Jets activated running back Khiry Robinson off the active Physically Unable to Perform list.
-Wideout Anthony Kelly and defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi were signed, while defensive lineman Julien Obioha was waived/injured and wideout Chris King was placed on the reserve/did not report list.