FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — “Play on the edge. Live on the edge. Never hurt the team.”
The mantra is etched in Buster Skrine’s memory, and it serves as a constant reminder of what is expected of him and his teammates every day on the field.
And the Jets cornerback has his secondary coach Dennard Wilson to thank for that newfound focus.
With the additions of Wilson, veteran cornerback Morris Clairborne and rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, Skrine believes their secondary has the potential to be “a special group.”
“This is my seventh year in the NFL and this is one of the most aggressive groups I’ve been around — and confident,” the 28-year-old cornerback said Wednesday, following the team’s 10th training camp practice.
After an offseason of coaching changes and an expected roster overhaul, the Jets’ revamped secondary is quicker, faster and even more intent on delivering punishing hits on receivers. And the group’s fiery leader is determined to get the most out of each one of his players.
“Dennard Wilson is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around,” Skrine said. “Me and Mo [Claiborne] really appreciate our coach because no matter how old you are, or how much you’ve done, football is about being consistent. And a lot of guys take it for granted. Him being in our DB room, he gets the best out of us.”
Claiborne, 27, said he was used to playing mostly zone coverage during his five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. But “here, there’s a lot of things that happen with different motions that change the whole defense for everybody,” he said. “In some defenses, it might just change the linebackers and the down guys. But here, it can change the whole defense, even the corners.
“You’ve got to know how to play if you’re trapping someone, you’ve got to know when you’re trapping, who you’re trapping and stuff like that.”
And those play calls are a direct result of the Jets’ new personnel and the confidence the coaching staff has in its new pieces. “I feel like our coaches trust our secondary to do those things, like check coverages,” said Skrine, who was part of the organization’s 2015 spending spree to improve the secondary. “Everybody knows that our team plays man — mano y mano. So, if you can do that, we can play with any team.”
Adjusting to more complex schemes isn’t easy, especially for two young safeties. But lucky for the Jets, Adams and Maye don’t seem to know they’re rookies.
“This organization did a great job getting two confident guys,” Skrine said. “If you came out here and didn’t know their names, you would think they’re vets.”
There’s another motto circulating inside the Jets facility too, according to nose tackle Steve McLendon: “One goal. One team. Win.”
And it’s not just their secondary that has high expectations this season.
After a disappointing 2016 season, in which the defense finished 22nd overall, McLendon said the unit’s overall mission is clear: “play faster, play harder, get off the field on third down.”
“We set goals. We set goals mighty high,” added the veteran, who on Tuesday gave an impassioned speech to teammates during practice. “Expectations are not low. This is a business of one opportunity. You get an opportunity each Sunday to go out to play fast, play hard, play smart, together.
“ . . . We most definitely have the pieces.”