NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Rex Ryan came to New York with a reputation as a great defensive mind. He’s delivered for the most part on that end, though the Super Bowl and AFC East title remain just out of his reach.
Ryan is hoping speed — the missing ingredient to his squad’s aggressive, physical style — may just help him sack New England and Bill Belichick’s stranglehold on the division.
The defense has adopted the motto: “One Step Faster” this season after the coaches acknowledged that it might have been a bit slower than they would have liked last season.
“We’ve been a really good defense here for three years, but we want to be a great defense,” Ryan said at a charity event Tuesday night. “So we’re going to push each other that way.”
“You need to be fast and athletic,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “The league is evolving that way. It’s a pass-first league and we felt we became, for lack of a better word, a little dinosaur-ish inside. We needed to improve the athleticism and team speed.”
Pettine thinks that’s exactly what they did by drafting players such as defensive lineman Quinton Coples, linebacker Demario Davis and safeties Josh Bush and Antonio Allen last weekend. They also added safety LaRon Landry in free agency, and kept speedy outside linebacker Aaron Maybin, who led the team with six sacks last season.
“We were very fired up as a defensive staff that we were able to add that type of ability to our room,” said Pettine.
Ryan, Pettine and a few players were at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel for an event – co-hosted by Pettine – to try to help find a bone marrow donor for ailing Jets fan Michael Manganiello.
The Jets targeted speed in the draft and Pettine said he did a “mental backflip” when Coples, the big lineman from North Carolina, was still available at No. 16 overall in the NFL draft. Coples is expected to be a major contributor on the defensive line immediately, and Ryan declared him a starter after the draft before later backtracking.
Contrary to some reports, Ryan said the Jets were not going to instead take West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, who was taken by Seattle at No. 15, if he were still available when it was New York’s turn in the first round last week.
“Not at No. 16, I can tell you that much,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy we did a lot of stuff on. We liked Bruce Irvin as a player, but not ahead of the first two guys we took.”
The Jets drafted speedy Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill in the second round, and then Davis in the third round.
Pettine acknowledged that part of the team’s plan this offseason was to get players who could help neutralize New England’s big tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
“We feel the division runs through Foxborough. We have to defend them,” said Pettine. “You saw the tight ends drafted. New England has set the trend for it, and we have to respond to it. … These guys are glorified strong safeties.”
Maybin, who struggled in his first two years after being a first-round pick by Buffalo, had a breakout season with the Jets last year. He will again be a key part of the new and faster defense while rushing the quarterback from his outside linebacker spot.
“I love that,” Maybin said of the Jets’ decision to get faster. “If you were looking for a player that marries up to that type of mentality, you know you’re looking at him. That’s my style of football and that’s how I’ve always liked to play the game.
“When the coaches came in and said this was the direction we wanted to go, there weren’t too many guys who were more excited than I was.”
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