This is about payback.
That might seem a little extreme, given that Saturday night's game between the Jets and Bengals is merely the second of the preseason for each team. But when Rex Ryan and the Jets visited Cincinnati last season, they exited Paul Brown Stadium utterly embarrassed after a 49-9 loss.
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"They brought it to us and they sent us home with our tails tucked between our legs," guard Willie Colon said. "This game may not mean something in the books, but it's a statement game. For this team to take the next level, this is a great opponent with a solid defense, a solid offense. It's going to be a test for us."
The Jets trailed 14-0 by the end of the first quarter in last year's game, and 15 seconds into the third quarter, the deficit was 35-6. Geno Smith threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns before he was pulled in favor of Matt Simms early in the fourth quarter.
Smith, the presumed regular-season starter in 2014, said he put that poor performance in the rearview mirror long ago.
"Obviously, you want to have a better showing. That's just natural," said Smith, who finished that game with a 51.9 rating after completing 20 of 30 passes for 159 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked three times for a loss of 28 yards.
"I'm not thinking about anything that happened last year," Smith said. "Instead, focusing on every single play and every single rep, and continuing to get better and progress."
The Jets have added 12 draft picks and made quite a few free-agent signings, so many of the players don't share those memories of last year's matchup. But several still do.
"We owe them one," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson told the Jets' website this week. "We owe them one big time. That was pretty much the only team that dog-walked this defense like that."
Added Colon: "We had taken a bad 'L' against Tennessee [38-13 in Week 4], and going into Cincinnati, you figured we had learned our lesson. But we didn't. I just remember late in that game, Geno ended up getting pulled. It was a lot. It was a lot going on. I think, emotionally, I was frustrated because I knew if we would have been more on our X's and O's, focused more on execution and had been ready to go, we could have beaten them. And we let one slip."
Smith again will be the starting quarterback, and he and the rest of the starters will play the first half, Ryan said. Backup quarterback Michael Vick said he's unsure how much playing time he'll get, but Ryan said sixth-round draft pick Tajh Boyd -- and not Simms -- will see second-half action.
The coaching staff and players have watched video of the Bengals this week, but they won't specifically game-plan for the game, Ryan said. "Now if it was New England, that might be different," he joked.
Bengals-Jets doesn't contain the level of rivalry of Patriots-Jets, but it still will be an emotional game for guys such as Colon, who called last year's game "a beatdown."
But the 2014 Jets are more unified than last year's group, he said. According to Ryan, these Jets are better prepared for the challenge, too.
"Yeah, we're a better football team. That's the number one thing," Ryan said. "I know it's a preseason game, but I'm looking forward to it. And I'm glad we're facing a good team."