Rex Ryan thinks players are making progress

Head coach Rex Ryan answers a question before

Head coach Rex Ryan answers a question before Jets minicamp in Florham Park, N.J. (June 12, 2012) (Credit: AP)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- They're still a work in progress, but Rex Ryan nevertheless is beaming.

The Jets coach said he's excited about how his players are adapting to a new offensive coordinator and an up-tempo system filled with unfamiliar formations and verbiage. As a three-day minicamp ended in front of a large crowd Thursday, Ryan anticipated the start of training camp July 26 in Cortland.

For Ryan, who spent considerable time this offseason addressing last year's locker room issues, it's imperative that his players return in shape and focused.

"Are we there yet? No," he said. "But we're way ahead. We made strides. And I like the fact that our guys see that 'Hey, I better come back in shape.' "

Ryan said that for the Jets to be a great fourth-quarter team, they need to be diligent in their offseason conditioning. But with so much downtime away from the facility, there is the potential for some of that progress to be derailed. Antonio Cromartie didn't sound worried, saying, "I think we have guys with good heads on their shoulders who want to make sure they make the right decision."

The year-old CBA allows only one daily practice in pads and a walkthrough, which means fewer reps in camp. "It's really on them," Ryan said.

After dissension helped to derail the Jets late last season, Ryan is convinced the feel-good vibes from minicamp will continue. "I don't know how many wins we're going to have," he said, "but we're going to be a close football team."

But that didn't stop him from ratcheting up the competition. Members of the defense walked onto the field in black jerseys, taking the offense and fans by surprise. Ryan took the idea from offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who used dark jerseys as a reward in Miami. During camp, the better unit during practice will wear black the following day.

"Guys love competition," Ryan said. "This is just a way of adding to it a little bit. It's a fun deal, they can get after each other more."

Notes & quotes: After batting away Mark Sanchez's first pass in 11-on-11 drills, DL Muhammad Wilkerson gave the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag . . . For the third straight day, WRs Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill (hamstrings) did only individual work. S LaRon Landry (Achilles/heel), WRs Chaz Schilens (hamstring), Patrick Turner (hamstring) and Dexter Jackson (groin), TE Brian Linthicum (quadriceps), DL Marcus Dixon (calf) and CB Ellis Lankster (unspecified) did agility drills only . . . DT Kenrick Ellis will begin serving a 45-day jail sentence Friday . . . Injured rookie WR Jordan White signed.

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