Florham Park, N.J. - Kerry Rhodes logged onto his Twitter account earlier this week and sent out a warning to the rest of the league.
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``We will be the best defense in the league this year!!!'' the New York Jets safety wrote. ``I feel for the offenses we are gonna face.''
It was bold - and less than 140 characters, of course - but showed the confidence the team already has in the talent new coach Rex Ryan has assembled, even if the season opener is three months away.
``I like that,'' Ryan said Wednesday with a big smile. ``I'm excited about that comment.''
Ryan was Baltimore's defensive coordinator the last four seasons, and hired assistant Mike Pettine to be his defensive coordinator when he replaced Eric Mangini as the Jets' coach. Their first order of business was to put together a defense that would be feared.
``I think we're making strides,'' said linebacker Bart Scott, a handful of former Ravens who followed Ryan to New York. ``I think we're going to be a force to be reckoned with.''
with that, especially after adding Scott, Jim Leonhard and Lito Sheppard to a defense that already included playmakers such as Rhodes, Kris Jenkins, Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace.
``When you talk about talent, I don't think you'll find a better team on paper,'' Pace said. ``But what does that mean? There have been a lot of bad teams that looked good on paper.''
Pace is cautiously optimistic, and for good reason. Last season, the Jets' defense was outstanding early before struggling and finishing 16th in the league. Pace attributed the dropoff to the constant tinkering with the system once the struggles began.
``We lost our identity,'' Pace said.
The Jets are trying to establish one again, and this time with lots of influence from Ryan's former team.
``Some people might take it personal,'' Pace said. ``It's good to be compared to them. There are teams that set the benchmark and they're exciting to watch.''
During early meetings with his new players, Ryan showed film of the Ravens' defense and the Jets saw an unpredictable and aggressive unit that established itself as one of the best in the league. Under Ryan, the Ravens were ranked in the top 6 overall and led league in takeaways last season.
The Jets are excited about the prospect of being that type of force.
, we'll even stop mentioning the Baltimore word. We'll mention the New York Jets swagger and the New York Jets style. That was just a reference to come in because that's what we're starting at.''
Scott said using Baltimore as an example is good, since the system has proven to be successful.
``You take the discipline and make it your own,'' he said. ``Just like the West Coast offense. It all started with the 49ers, but everybody from that tree had their own interpretation of it.''
Ryan has said that his defense is the easiest to learn and it just looks complicated. Jenkins isn't so sure about that. Not yet, anyway.
``It's not as simple of a defense as you would assume it is when you look at it in practice,'' he said. ``We're still making the transition to learn new terminologies and things like that. A lot of guys, we worked under Mangini's system last year. We have all new terminology and it's work and that's fine. It's not one of those things where guys are dreading it anymore. They're coming in and looking like they're looking forward to coming to practice.''
A lot of that has to do with the loose environment Ryan has encouraged, one in which there is constant banter between the offense and defense.
Notes: RB Leon Washington, who reported to voluntary workouts Monday for the first time after missing three weeks because of a contract dispute, wasn't at practice because his fiancee, Charity Young, gave birth to their son, Noel. ... Ryan said LB David Harris will be sidelined a few weeks after needing stitches in his lip and having a few teeth loosened last week when Leonhard slammed into him on the sideline. ``I don't know exactly how many (stitches). We're keeping that from New England,'' Ryan quipped.
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