Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are probably the most interesting team to cover. They are not afraid to say what they believe to be true, that they are the best team in the NFL. After years of head coaches teaching their players to say nothing, the Jets are allowed to say anything. Ryan’s only stipulation is that they back it up on the field. I know that people in New York are disappointed that the Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl yet under Ryan, but look at what they have accomplished. Before Ryan the Jets were a very ordinary team, Ryan made them believe that they were special. His defense creates pressure without great pass rushers, and the hated Patriots are now trying to figure out a way to beat the Jets. Think about the power of that statement.
No discussion of the Jets can start anywhere but on defense. Ryan, like Dick LeBeau, creates blitz like pressure without blitzing. He walks people around and the quarterback and offensive line has to guess who is coming. Often the offense gets it right and the pressure is picked up, but on those occasions when they make a mistake, it unsettles offenses.
The Jets front seven is basically interchangeable in their run defense. Their strength is the ability to cover four gaps with three guys. Only the Jets, Patriots and Ravens can get away with that.
The other major factor is Darrell Revis. The Jets rarely send more than five rushers allowing them six in coverage. But with Revis taking away the other team’s best receiver, the other five defenders are often left covering two or three of the offense’s lesser threats. Ryan’s zone blitzes scare offenses into leaving backs and tight ends in to help protect, exacerbating the situation. David Harris is a star and Bart Scott is a combination of Rex Ryan and Ray Lewis for the Jets. If the Jets’ CB Kyle Wilson lives up to expectations in his second year and Jim Leonhard returns to direct traffic, the Jets are going to be really tough to handle on defense. I keep trying to imagine the Jets with a top end pass rusher, it wouldn’t be fair.
Offensively, the Jets are a running team built around a first class offensive line. The right side of Brandon Moore and Damien Woody provides the power and Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson provide the athleticism. Shonn Greene is a powerful guy that I really like, but needs work as a receiver. LT fills that roll.
The passing game is a work in progress even though Santonio Holmes was incredible last year with his big plays. I still don’t know who will play opposite him this year, but that is a very important decision. With the way that the Jets can run it, the passing game has a great advantage. Mark Sanchez is always the story, but Ryan has done a great job of bringing him along slowly. I thought the Colts playoff game last year was the most confidence Ryan had ever shown in his young quarterback. If Sanchez keeps moving in the Phillip Rivers direction, the Patriots will have their hands full this year. But remember, the Patriots defense is young and growing up with Sanchez. Whoever takes the bigger jump this year may well decide the AFC East.
Nothing will replace the Patriots-Colts game as the marquee regular season game, but the Jets-Patriots and Steelers-Ravens games are getting close. Rex Ryan has players lining up to play for him in New York, and that is an advantage that you simply cannot downplay. Don’t be surprised if the Jets make a big splash in free agency. NYC and Rex Ryan is an attractive combination for NFL players.