NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rex Ryan stays away from bold guarantees and eye-popping predictions these days.
It’s just not his style. Well, at least anymore.
The New York Jets coach is still plenty confident in his team, and he let them know that Monday when his players gathered at the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J., for their first set of voluntary workouts.
While the coach, once known for his Super Bowl guarantees, wouldn’t detail exactly what his expectations are for this season, Ryan added that he believes the Jets are an “ascending team.”
“I talked to our team about how I feel, about what our fans expect,” Ryan said of his opening message. “To me, it’s time to deliver. We need to deliver.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics about what we’re delivering, but I know what our fans expect, and they’re going to get everything we have.”
Some of the “buzz,” as Ryan described it, can be attributed to high-profile free-agent signings such as quarterback Michael Vick, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker this offseason. All three were considered arguably the best available players at their positions in free agency, and provide significant improvements to a team that surprised many by finishing 8-8 last season.
While general manager John Idzik has been deliberate this offseason, he has also been thrifty. The Jets are still about $26 million under the salary cap, a figure that places them among teams with the most space to work with. And, they’ve also got a whopping 12 draft picks.
“I think we’re a great nucleus of a team,” Ryan said. “We’ve laid that foundation last year and I think we’re just going to build to it this year.”
The true test of what the Jets will become will almost certainly be dictated by play at quarterback. Second-year signal-caller Geno Smith reiterated Monday that he still believes he’ll be the starter, despite the presence of Vick, whom the Jets signed to provide strong competition for Smith this summer.
“My belief in myself,” Smith said, when asked why he thinks he’ll ultimately win the job. “Knowing that I’m going to take every action possible to get better and to come into this season a better player; having a second year in (offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s) system and with (quarterbacks) coach David Lee and with Rex as the head coach is going to do wonders for not just myself but everyone on the offense.
“A lot of it is going to come down to production on the field. I just believe with the experience I’ve gained and the direction we were heading in as an offense and where I see myself as a second-year player, I just believe I’m more than capable of being the starter,” Smith added.
Vick’s problems of late have had little to do with production and plenty to do with staying healthy. He played in just 17 games over his final two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He’s been in this system with Marty, so I think that’s going to be a big help,” Ryan said of Vick. “I think his physical skills also are going to push Geno. … Hey, look, it’s not like you don’t have a great quarterback sitting right there pushing you. That’s what he’ll do. He’ll push you. He’s a tremendous football player, a very talented guy. I think it’s going to be great for Geno. I think the biggest thing that Mike is going to help Geno with is probably his experience, and his experience in this system I think will really help Geno as well.”
Smith had an up-and-down rookie season, but though he threw only 12 touchdown passes, he finished with more than 3,000 yards passing, and ran for another 366 yards and six TDs. He also led the Jets to three wins in their final four games to get them to .500. Still, he said he’s not going to use his age or the Jets’ lack of ability at the skill positions as reasons to explain why he played so poorly at times earlier in the season.
“The guys that we had last year were more than viable options,” Smith said. “I think it all came down to me, honestly. If I had done a lot of things better, I think we would have done better as an offense and it showed later on in the year.”
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