Rex Ryan pleased as Jets pick it up in practice after sluggish Thursday

Rex Ryan greets Jeremy Kerley as the Jets

Rex Ryan greets Jeremy Kerley as the Jets warm up before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 8, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - How big would it be for the Jets to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday?

"It would be huge," coach Rex Ryan said Friday. "It would be a huge win. But I don't think they're just going to give it to us. They're one of the better teams in this league, so obviously we've got our work cut out for us. We have to be at our very best, there's no question, to have a chance to beat these guys."

Ryan made his remarks after what he considered an improved practice. On Thursday, he said "the execution wasn't where we wanted it to be" and the receivers had too many drops.

Receiver Jeremy Kerley went a step further Thursday, saying: "Practice was a little lackadaisical today, but we've got to pick it up. We know what's ahead of us. We know Cincinnati's a great team. We know they've got a great defense. We know we've got to catch the ball, snatch it down every chance we get. Practice tomorrow will be a lot better."

Was it?

"Today, they were outstanding," Ryan said. "It was a great practice and we responded . . . I think the focus was great. I don't think we dropped any passes today, so I think that's a good thing."

If that all sounds slightly familiar (and perhaps alarming) to Jets fans, remember Ryan also wasn't pleased with a midweek practice before the Week 6 game against the Steelers.

Back then, the Jets were coming off a huge Monday night win at Atlanta. The Jets then lost to Pittsburgh at home. This time the Jets are coming off a huge win over New England and facing a tough foe on the road.

The AFC North-leading Bengals (5-2) have won three in a row and are 3-0 at home. So it's a good thing the Jets (4-3) found their focus Friday.

"We all want the same thing," Ryan said. "We want to go out there and perform at a high level, and to do that, it has to get done on the practice field first and in the classroom. Sometimes it happens when you put new things in. You're facing a team that you're really not familiar with and it takes you a day or two and then you get dialed in. And that's really where we are now."

Notes & quotes: WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) will not play. Ryan rejected the notion of Holmes sitting out against New Orleans next week, too, even if he's ready, so he can get more healing time with the bye week after that. "If a guy like that is ready to go, you want him playing," Ryan said. "He's a difference-maker, and if he's healthy to go, we want him playing." Ryan, noting that the Saints' defensive coordinator is his brother Rob, joked, "And we're playing my brother, so yeah, he's playing." . . . C Nick Mangold (ribs) was listed as questionable but Ryan said, "He's good." . . . TE Jeff Cumberland (hamstring) was limited in practice but is listed as probable.

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