By Ernie Palladino
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There’s nothing wrong with a little offseason venom directed at one’s enemies, even if it’s coming from a rookie.
When Jets first-round safety Calvin Pryor set off a small squall by expressing his hatred for the Giants and Patriots before have the benefit of a single encounter with either team, he simply echoed what any veteran should rightly think.
Crosstown rival on the one hand, divisional kingpin and archrival on the other. Even Rex Ryan has shown his distaste for those guys with his past actions. It’s not hard to fathom, and certainly is not an inappropriate sentiment given the combative nature of Pryor’s sport. Whether any rookie has the right to voice that opinion is another conversation. But the idea is not unique, whether it comes from an exalted veteran or a newly-minted pro whose only locker room input should consist of “Glazed or jelly with your coffee, sir?”
So the problem is not really with Pryor’s perception of his role, but his reality, which just happens to be the Jets’ reality, too.
The fact is, they are heading into Year 2 of Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense essentially without a quarterback. Despite the offensive improvements John Idzik made through acquiring Titans running back Chris Johnson and Broncos wideout Eric Decker, they’re still stuck with Geno Smith as the presumed starter, with 33-year-old Michael Vick behind him. Defensively, the secondary isn’t any great shakes and could remain susceptible to the big play.
Given that situation, maybe taking a shot at any perennial division winner which features anybody named Tom Brady wasn’t such a hot idea.
Ryan didn’t mind, though. Like his cantankerous father, Buddy, who once proclaimed to the New York media that his Eagles would block the great Lawrence Taylor with a rookie, Rex has never been above a little trash talk.
He wouldn’t admonish the rookie, at least not publicly.
“(The Patriots) are the ones we have to beat,” Ryan told the media as the Jets wrapped up their formal offseason practices. “We recognize it, as everybody should. They win it every year, like 10 of the last 11.
“You respect them, but you don’t like them. They’re trying to take something from you.”
The obvious object for the Jets is to take something from them. But it’s going to be hard, considering the general state of the team. The wide receiver corps has only slightly improved with the addition of Decker. Jeremy Kerley is solid, but the media is searching high and low for reasons to label 2012 second-rounder Stephen Hill a bust. Unless he turns it on in camp, they won’t have to look far anymore. Hill could turn into the lynchpin that separates the group from a limited mediocrity to a truly effective, diversified unit. But he must first attain the consistency he has lacked his first two seasons.
Health — Hill has battled knee problems since he was drafted — and three drafted receivers in Shaq Evans, Quincy Enunwa, and Jalen Saunders threaten Hill’s position on the team. Even if one or two of them overtake Hill, they will be raw and probably not ready for a prime-time workload.
A secondary saddled with a still-developing Dee Milliner at one corner and the vulnerable Kyle Wilson at the other makes it hard to believe the Jets will be much of a threat to the Patriots’ offensive dominance.
As for the Giants, the Jets won one more game than Tom Coughlin’s group, and they still couldn’t wrestle the interests of the city away. It’s going to take a lot more than a little hatred to own this town.
But at least the requisite emotions exist, even if it took a first-round rookie to voice them. Pryor might not know his place in the locker room, but at least he realizes who the enemy is.
Now, all the Jets have to do is get the rest of this football stuff down pat, and they might have a real shot at something in 2014.
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