In the world of sports, where dynasties are about as seldom as a chalkboard-material quote heard from the mouth of Browns head coach Eric Mangini, change routinely becomes the norm. Fresh off old, unsuccessful regimes, franchises breath new life into players and fan bases by echoing the sentiment, “each season brings a new attitude.”
If there was ever a poster boy for that ancient slogan, Rex Ryan might as well take a stand.
Just moments after being introduced as the Jets new head coach back in January, Ryan delivered as bold a statement a new man on the job could ever dare to touch upon. Glaring out to a throng of cameras and reporters, Ryan suggested, “With all the cameras and all that, I was looking for our new president back there. You know, I think we’ll get to meet him in the next couple years anyway.”
Wow, just wow. Before even stepping foot on the practice field with his new team, Ryan had already guaranteed a trip to the Super Bowl. For the writers who had listened to even a snippet of a press conference during Mangini’s three seasons with the Jets, Ryan’s ultra-confident approach had the same effect as a baseball slugger anticipating a 95 mph fastball and instead being tossed a changeup. For the players, Ryan’s brash, trash-talking approach provided a relaxed, yet determined approach.
Linebacker Bart Scott later termed Gang Green’s new attitude as “swaggerlicious” and Ryan’s bulletin-board statements quickly irked Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. The Jets had not even played a single snap under their new, fiery head coach, yet it felt like they had new life.
The renewed attitude certainly has created one of the most entertaining offseasons and one that was very much needed after last year’s collapse. The players are energized and the atmosphere on the practice field is loose. Heck, even D’Brickashaw Ferguson is predicting a Pro Bowl season for himself and a trip to the Super Bowl for his team.
A lot has changed in Jets land these days and their first crack at bringing their “swaggerlicious” attitude in full pads will be Friday, when they open their preseason slate against the Rams. The sound of a football game in August certainly does not get your blood rushing aside from the few diehards, but there is a different feel surrounding Gang Green this season. One of the most intriguing aspects of Friday’s game will be to what extent will Ryan let his defensive schemes out of the bag? Will he throw most of his blitz packages during the few snaps that the starters actually play? Nose tackle Kris Jenkins (calf) and cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring) will not play due to injury, but every Jets fan will finally catch a glimpse of newcomers Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard.
Starting back to March when the Jets held their first voluntary workouts, one of the most intriguing aspects was watching the level of chatter between the defensive players before each snap. There were the occasional barks delivered back and forth between Scott and the offensive line, but much of the volume was the defense communicating with each other. Ryan had only been named head coach two months prior and yet the defense already seemed to run his crafty blitz packages like a well-oiled machine. With months of OTA’s and training camp practices now in the books, Friday’s tilt will show how much the defense has progressed.
The Jets have a new head coach, new players and a refreshed attitude. Will it lead to an improved style of play?
As intriguing as Ryan’s ball-hawking defense could potentially be, there is also plenty of news on the offensive side of the ball. The battle between quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and rookie Mark Sanchez has been a near draw thus far. However, an equally impressive performance from each signal caller probably bodes best for Sanchez. Clemens has already spent four years in the Jets’ system, while Sanchez has spent just four months, so any coach would hope that the elder statesman would take a giant step forward in the competition. Clemens will start Friday, as he and Sanchez will likely share an equal number of snaps with the starters. If Clemens is outplayed, he could already find himself battling out of a deep hole.