In news that likely will surprise few: The Jets are not expected to have an explosive offense. No, not even when the Wildcat offense is unveiled with Tim Tebow.
As it has, the team will be reliant on its defense, and perhaps even more so this year than in the last three seasons.
Rex Ryan conceded that – though indirectly – during his press conference Wednesday. The coach, in speaking about the old Ravens teams on which he was an assistant, said one unit would sometimes have to pick the others up. Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning team in 2000 was a prime example, he said.
“We went five straight games without scoring an offensive touchdown, and I think we won two of those games,” Ryan said “That’s where you talk about a defense can pick up an offense.”
Actually, they were even better than Ryan’s memory credited them. The Ray Lewis and Chris McAlister-led Ravens defense carried the team to wins in each of those five games, though they weren’t in consecutive weeks.
That season, quarterback Tony Banks threw for 1,578 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. And, as Ryan playfully pointed out, five of Banks’ touchdowns came in one game – a 39-36 victory over the Jaguars. Trent Dilfer, who went on to be Super Bowl MVP, had 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games. But the defense forced 49 turnovers, held opponents to an NFL-record low 165 points, and rookie Jamal Lewis ran for 1,364 yards, and Jermaine Lewis was a dynamic return man. The defense was praised – and rightfully so – but it was a collective effort.
That sounds good, but it might be a stretch to expect this Jets defense to set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season. That, and the league has changed quite a bit in the last decade. It’s increasingly difficult to contain offenses with rules changes and ever-expanding playbooks; quarterbacks throwing for 4,000 yards becoming commonplace.
Ryan said it goes both ways, though. “You can look at any team that’s had success and both sides will pick each other up during the course of a season,” the coach said. “That’s the way you try to build your team.”
But could resentment be fostered (and fester) between an offense and defense on a team where the imbalance could be very pronounced? “We’re a team,” Ryan said. “When you look at it, that’s the main thing. You play to the strength of your team.”
Ryan said the old Ravens defense couldn’t have set records that season without the offense’s contributions, which included going run-heavy on offense to drain the clock with a lead and keep the defense rested.
“You don’t focus on the statistics offensively,” Ryan said. “You focus on the wins.”