This time, Rex Ryan was careful not to boast or be brash.
But when asked the question, he told the truth. As he sees it.
Ryan may not have Darrelle Revis anymore -- or six other defensive starters from a year ago. But the Jets coach nevertheless is certain that the unit will be top five in the NFL by the end of the season.
“We will be,” said the ever-confident coach, before giving way to a more subdued assessment. “Right now we’re not there. Obviously, we’ve got to make some improvements, especially from this past week.
“But I’m certainly confident that we’ll be where we always are or better.”
The Jets have finished 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th, respectively, over Ryan’s four-year tenure.
But after undergoing a defensive overhaul this offseason, there were questions about whether the unit wouldd be as good as advertised. And Saturday’s preseason win over the Jaguars – a game in which quarterback Blaine Gabbert went 13-for-16 for 165 yards, a touchdown and 130.5 passer rating – didn’t help his cause.
But Ryan said there’s one good reason to believe the Jets defense will be Top 5 again.
“My history,” he said, matter-of-factly. “There will be a lot of new faces in there but I guess you put that decal on the side of your helmets that says New York Jets you have to be special, you have to understand that there’s expectations that come along with it, and I expect our guys to play extremely well.”