FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — This is the season the New York Jets will go to the Super Bowl. Rex Ryan guarantees it.
And, not only that. The bold, brash coach insists the franchise will celebrate its first Lombardi Trophy since the days of Broadway Joe.
Heard it all before? Ryan doesn’t care. This is what he believes, and he’s not changing his mind.
“I’ll stand by what I always say,” Ryan said.
That means he thinks that after two straight losing trips to the AFC championship game, the Jets will take the next step and win it all.
“They say the third time is a charm, so hopefully,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “We feel very strongly that we can do that. As Rex said, we are going to win the Super Bowl and we have all the ability in the world to do it. It’s just a matter of getting over that hump, winning that game and hopefully winning a Super Bowl for the second time. We definitely have the ability to do that.”
Getting to the AFC championship twice in a row isn’t easy, and being there three straight seasons is a rarity. The Buffalo Bills were the last to do it, when they won four straight conference titles from 1990-93 and lost in the Super Bowl each of those seasons. The Jets also won’t want to join the 1973-75 Oakland Raiders, the only team to lose three straight AFC title games.
Super Bowl or bust? Yep, pretty much.
“What’s next for us?” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “It has to be winning the championship.”
A lot of that responsibility will fall on quarterback Mark Sanchez, who needs to be even better than he has in his first two seasons. And, Sanchez knows it.
“My improvement determines any kind of ceiling this team could have, and our potential,” he said. “We have all of the potential in the world, and now it’s time to realize that, for me to step up my game.”
He’ll have to also quickly develop a rapport with his new group of receivers. While Santonio Holmes is back as Sanchez’s go-to guy after the Jets made him their top offseason priority, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith are gone. Replacing them are Plaxico Burress, who hasn’t played in a regular-season NFL game in nearly three years after serving a 20-month prison sentence, and Derrick Mason, a 37-year-old veteran who desperately wants to cap a terrific career with a ring.
Both Burress and Mason have dealt with injuries during training camp that caused them to miss preseason games, but their experience and talent have them confident they will have big impacts on the offense.
“I think that we all know that it takes more than just one guy to go out and to be a championship-caliber football team,” Burress said. “We’re all great fits. We all specialize in one skill or another. As far as from a receiving standpoint, we pretty much have three guys that can do it all.”
Burress gives Sanchez a tall red-zone threat who can outreach just about every defensive back in the league, replacing what Edwards’ role was. Despite the long layoff after going to jail on a gun charge, Burress has shown signs of being the receiver who was once regarded among the league’s best.
“It’s just football,” Burress said. “You run around, catching the football, understanding your job, understanding the concepts of defense and offense and running to daylight, trying to get open. There’s nothing too hard about it.”
Even with three big-name receivers, Ryan said the offensive philosophy will be the same as it always has been: ground-and-pound. Shonn Greene will assume the role as the featured running back while Tomlinson will be more of a pass-catching third-down back.
Ryan’s bread and butter will always be his defense, and he sarcastically apologized for his unit being ranked only third in the league last year. He thinks they’ll be even better this season, and having a nearly intact secondary is a major reason.
After losing out on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency, the Jets turned back to Antonio Cromartie and re-signed him to team with Darrelle Revis, who’s coming off another outstanding season. New York also re-signed safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool, and Jim Leonhard is fully recovered from a broken leg that sidelined him late last season.
“You know what we’re going to do,” Cromartie said. “We’re going to play man-to-man on the outside and we’re going to go out and smash you in the mouth.”
A big key will be putting more pressure on quarterbacks, something the Jets didn’t do consistently enough last season. While they didn’t re-sign Shaun Ellis, they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis with their first two picks in April to give their defensive line a boost.
“We have a certain standard that we expect and we’re going to work to getting that,” Ryan said. “Obviously, there are a lot of good defenses out there, but we want to be the best.”
That’s the theme this year — again. Finishing second to anybody in anything on the field just won’t cut it.
“We’ve been wiping our feet at the doormat to walk into the Super Bowl,” Holmes said. “Why can’t we do it again this year? Why can’t we do it again three more years? Why can’t we do it again in five years? I’m pretty sure coach has brought it to everybody’s attention around here that that’s what we’re going to be about this year.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.