CORTLAND, N.Y. - Talking has become the Jets' specialty. And as Rex Ryan sees it, his players have every reason to be brimming with confidence.
The Jets coach wasn't the least bit fazed by the boastfulness emanating from training camp this past week -- and his lips seem to be a lot looser this preseason as well.
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"Well, you get a few bullets shot at you when you take this approach, so maybe that's not recommended. But you know what? It's who we are, it's how we feel," he said Tuesday after a particularly sloppy practice.
"I know -- oh, they can laugh. Well, you've got to play us, too, so we'll see. We'll see at the end of the day. The beauty of it is we get to find out. And, again, we're not running from it. We're running into it."
Cornerback Dee Milliner, the ninth overall pick who was benched three times last year before finishing the season as the AFC's Defensive Rookie of the Month, boldly labeled himself the NFL's best cornerback in a recent interview. Linebacker Calvin Pace didn't mince words when he said a few days ago that the Jets have the best defense in the league.
Yes, it's only July and just a week into camp. But apparently for the Jets, there's no better time than the present to start talking up your team.
"I think you get tired of the questions, maybe," Ryan said. "Sometimes you're just like, ya know what? I believe in myself, so there.
"We certainly believe in everybody that's chimed in there a little bit."
That's because there aren't as many question marks surrounding their roster, said Ryan, who acknowledged he's more confident in this year's group than he was in his 2013 team. He pointed out that he added 11 assistant coaches last season, had seven new starters on defense (a unit that wound up finishing 11th overall) and a new punter.
"So, does it look like I'm a little more confident this year? Yeah, your team is a little different," Ryan said. "Maybe I wasn't as confident. I mean, I was confident, but whoa, I didn't know some of these guys. Again, I knew myself. I knew we'd give it our best shot for sure."
But now he and his team are full of confidence at the start of training camp. Still, some of his players cautioned against talking too much.
"I'm all for the confidence,'' wide receiver David Nelson said, "I'm all for saying what you believe, but you've got to go out there on the football field and back it up."
Ryan also made headlines last week when he proclaimed the rival Patriots "have to worry about us." Unlike the Jets, who missed the playoffs each of the past three seasons, New England has won five straight AFC East titles.
Quarterback Geno Smith stressed that "no one's here saying we cornered the market on anything," adding that the Jets know they have to put in the work now to be a good team later. But Ryan believes there's plenty of reason for optimism -- and he knows his players are following his lead.
"To be great, to be a champion, you've got to believe in yourself or nobody else will," Ryan said, resurrecting his favorite quote from boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. "You can't hide in this league. So if you're saying it, that's great because they really believe it.
"So that's a good sign, I think."