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Can Jets improve on No. 4 ranked defense this season?

New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris speaks

New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris speaks with the media at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, on reporting day for NFL training camp. Credit: Steven Ryan

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In their second year running Todd Bowles’ and Kacy Rodgers’ defensive schemes, the Jets expect to make a leap.

How high?

“Sky’s the limit,” free safety Marcus Gilchrist said Wednesday after the Jets checked in for the start of training camp.

From a statistical standpoint, improving on last year’s defensive success won’t be easy. The Jets went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs behind a defense that ranked fourth in the NFL allowing 318.6 yards per game. The Jets were even better stopping the run, ranking second at 83.4 yards per game.

They were ninth with 19.6 points allowed.

“I think we got a lot of the core guys back from last year, and [we’ll] try and build off what we did last year,” Gilchrist said. “We understand that it’s a new year, a new team, a new schedule, but I think we did some good things last year and we’re just trying to progress and build off what we did.”

Losing nose tackle Damon Harrison to the Giants could hurt the Jets against the run. But the defense received a boost two weeks ago when Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets agreed on a five-year contract worth up to $86 million.

“I love playing behind Mo,” linebacker Erin Henderson said. “He does a great job for our defense and for our defensive line. He does a good job keeping me clean, allowing me to make plays, so I look forward to him getting back out there.”

“It was well-deserved,” linebacker David Harris said of Wilkerson’s contract. “He’s been a stalwart for this defense and this team for the five years he’s been here. You want to see a guy like that be compensated. Everybody’s happy that he’s here, and I’m pretty sure he’s happy all that’s in the past and he can get back to football.”

The Jets’ first-round pick, linebacker Darron Lee, reached a contract agreement with the team on Wednesday.

“He’s a guy who’s always asking questions, wide-eyed,” Harris said. “He’s alert in meetings. He’s trying to get everything down as fast as he can because there’s a lot of expectations on him because he is a first-round pick. He knows that.”

Though there have been some changes to the defensive personnel -- Steve McLendon is expected to be Harrison’s replacement -- there are plenty of returnees. That, Harris said, will help the Jets take the next step as they begin their second season under Bowles.

“Guys know what to expect,” Harris said. “They know what type of person he is, what type of coach he is and the way he runs things around here.”


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