The Jets and head coach Rex Ryan are going back to basics on the defensive side of the ball. Even though the Jets were the No. 5 total defense in the league last year, a unit that had carried the team the previous two seasons suffered from serious breakdowns and poor communication.
That means Ryan is spending more time with his defense than in years past, including far more involvement in defensive meetings this spring. According to several players on the team, Ryan has been a constant presence in their film sessions, joining defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on an almost daily basis.
“I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself because of what I expect from this team, what our players expect, what this organization expects, what our fans expect. We want to win, all of us. When I say 'we,' I’m including the fans, you name it. We expect to win. Whoever out there, they expect the Jets to be a good football team. We don’t want to disappoint them. Let’s make sure we’re a good football team. We want to be in that race,” Ryan said.
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“I want us to be in a home playoff game. Is that difficult? Yeah. You got a team up the road. New England has been to a million of ’em in a row. We know there’s a lot of work to do, but we want to be there; there’s no question. Pressure, it’s not a security thing for me. It never has been about that for me. I want to win; I want to be special. Just like the Giants were last year, I want to be special. So that’s what’s driving me.”
As a head coach, Ryan was highly involved in the defense his first two years with the Jets, but backed off in his involvement last year, focusing more on the struggling offense. Now, Ryan doesn’t need to be as involved on the offensive side of the ball with former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as the offensive coordinator, freeing him up to focus his attention on his much beloved 3-4 defense.
Last year, Ryan would occasionally attend meetings of the defense, but nowhere near the amount of he has attended this offseason. Cornerback Kyle Wilson told Metro New York that Ryan’s chief involvement this year has been getting the defense on the same page and hopefully, a better understanding of the scheme and why certain calls are made during the course of the game.
For a defense that conceded a number of heartbreaking, big plays last season, it is a call for responsibility and accountability.
“He’s teaching a little more in the meetings — definitely a bit more consistent coming in. Somehow he’s in there, every day, every other day. Just giving us more tidbits of information to help us learn and understand. He’s trying to make sure that we’re on the same page,” Wilson said.
“Giving us a little bit of a different voice, a different perspective on things. It is cool – different, but really it is about bringing all three levels of the defense on the same page.”
But even with Ryan returning to his proverbial roots — before becoming the Jets head coach he was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore for four seasons — there isn’t friction with his presence in the film meetings. It would be easy for Ryan to butt heads with Pettine, but Wilson said that his coach is there to add guidance, not take control of the meetings.
Nose tackle Sione Pouha likened Ryan’s presence to an advanced placement class in high school where the instruction is just a notch deeper and more specific.
“It is really intense and great at the same time having him in there with Mike Pettine. It really is, because you have two defensive minds in there who can help break down things and help you understand things,” Pouha told Metro New York.
“For me, it’s like being in an AP class right now, the type of learning we’re getting. Having Rex in there, it is going back to his roots really, I mean, he made his name as a defensive coordinator with the Ravens. So having him in there, having his understanding and just a different perspective. That’s key for us.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news.