Jets players, not Rex, talking a big game as they prepare for Patriots
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
It's Patriots Week, a time when Rex Ryan would routinely come up with some memorable zingers aimed at Bill Belichick and New England.
But if the toned-down Ryan is now biting his tongue, his players are only too willing to fill in. In fact, there was even a guarantee of sorts a day after their season-opening win.
Take it away, Mo Wilkerson.
"If our game plan is as good as it was , I don't see why we won't be 2-0," the third-year defensive end told Newsday in advance of Thursday's game in Foxborough. "I'm confident in our coaching staff to have a great game plan and us being 2-0."
Wilkerson said as much earlier in the day on a radio interview on WFAN. "We're going up to Foxborough and get this win."
Those might be construed as fighting words, especially to a Patriots team that often uses opponents' confident pregame talk as motivation. But for Wilkerson, it's simply a reflection of the growing confidence in a young defense that he believes can be dominant this season. And that includes Thursday, when the level of competition rises exponentially from the Bucs to the Patriots.
"I'm not saying I'm guaranteeing it, but I'm saying if we do our jobs and follow our game plan, I don't see why we wouldn't be 2-0," Wilkerson said. "We had a good game plan in the first game and we won, so why wouldn't I feel that way for this game? I'm here with these guys every day and I see all the hard work that myself and everybody else on this team is putting in. We can be a dominant defense."
And for all the naysayers who believe the Jets are destined for a miserable season? Wilkerson said to keep the negative talk coming. Even friends and family.
"I feel like guys are motivated by the naysayers," he said. "People talk bad about us, you got to use it as motivation. That's what keeps me going, driving me out there."
Where does he hear it?
"Radio, family, Internet, social media, everything," said Wilkerson, who grew up in Linden, N.J., not far from MetLife Stadium. "I hear it all the time from friends, family, everywhere. People from around my area, I hear it all over. It's not like it gets me mad. I just smile and go on about my business, but I keep it in my head and that gives me extra motivation out there."
Wilkerson isn't alone. In fact, many of his younger teammates have a similarly confident mind-set, including rookie Sheldon Richardson, the Jets' outspoken first-round pick who was taken at No. 13 overall, the selection the Jets got in the Darrelle Revis trade.
Richardson had no problem with Wilkerson saying the Jets will be 2-0. "Sounds about right," the rookie tackle said.
That confidence was only reinforced after he watched video of the Patriots barely beating the Bills, 23-21. Even if future Hall of Famer Tom Brady figures to have a decided edge going into Thursday.
"I just think Buffalo came to play and gave them everything they had," Richardson said. "They were after [Brady] a lot and got good penetration. They were in his face."
Ryan said nothing to inflame the Patriots at Monday's news conference, but he did stoke the Jets' competitive fires in a pregame speech Saturday night by showing his players an NFL power rankings list that had the Jets in last. "It's not where you start, it's how you finish," Richardson said.
Cornerback Kyle Wilson agreed. "We expect to go out and win," he said, "and we don't see why we can't win."
Big talk from a team that barely won the opener and needed an untimely penalty from the Bucs late in the game to set up the winning field goal. Now we get to see if they can back it up when the stage and the opponent gets bigger Thursday night.