FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The bold predictions and routine chirping have been exorcised from the building. But even so, Jets defensive players have high expectations for themselves heading into the season.
"I believe we can be as good as we want," defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said Thursday, three days before the Jets' Week 1 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. "We can be great. We can be the No. 1 defense in this league. We've just got to come in each and every week improving and do our jobs every Sunday."
"This defense should be a playoff defense," added cornerback Buster Skrine, who played the previous four seasons with the Browns. "The defense should get us in the playoffs. We have the defense to do it. We've got a lot of talent on this defense. It's just about all coming together."
The Jets have reason for optimism. New general manager Mike Maccagnan almost broke the bank upgrading his secondary, signing former Jets Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie plus newcomers Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist. The Jets also landed the top-rated defensive player in this year's draft, USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
In a few days, fans will get to see just how good coach Todd Bowles' new defense is. But unlike predecessor Rex Ryan, the first-time head coach isn't focused on statistical benchmarks for the unit or interested in making bold predictions.
Asked how good the defense can be, Bowles said matter-of-factly: "We don't try to be good. We try to make plays and we try to stop people. We don't put any tags on ourselves. We're trying to do whatever we can do to win the ballgame."
Like his teammates, Gilchrist believes "the sky's the limit" for this group.
"If you look at paper, offensively and defensively, I'm banking on [making the] playoffs," he said. "But I've been playing for a while now and I played on talented teams in San Diego and I only made the playoffs once. So we just have to keep building as a team and the better we get collectively, not just one group, I think that'll tell the tale."