The Jets' recent draftees and rookie free agent signees will probably never be viewed with as much optimism as last weekend, when they participated in a minicamp at the Jets' Florham Park facility.
Head coach Rex Ryan was complimentary of almost everyone, from first-round defensive end Quinton Coples to Australian native and American football neophyte Hayden Smith, leading one to believe every player on the field was destined to become a can't-miss, rock-solid contributor.
Of course, Ryan is a pretty upbeat guy anyway. And it's likely multiple players -- drafted and undrafted -- will become core players for the Jets in the coming years.
But still: As ESPNNewYork.com pointed out, Eric Mangini raved in 2008 about first-round pick Vernon Gholston, whose next NFL sack will be his first. So while Ryan's verbal bouquets will boost the confidence of the rookies who head to training camp with the Jets in July, his hopeful words are by no means a guarantee of future performance.
Ryan saved his most glowing praise last weekend for the Jets' first three picks: Coples, wide receiver Stephen Hill and linebacker DeMario Davis. Ryan called Coples a "terrific pick" who will "play a ton," said the Jets thought about drafting Hill with their first-round pick and compared Davis to Ray Lewis as a leader and Bart Scott as a player.
"Some of the guys just jumped out at you," Ryan told reporters last Friday. "When you look at Coples and you look at Hill, the way they can run, and Davis. It's kind of fun to watch."
The Jets would certainly be in good shape if Ryan is as enthusiastic about Coples, Hill and Davis six months from now. All three players fill gaping holes for the Jets, who hope Coples becomes their first homegrown pass rusher since John Abraham. Coples expressed confidence he would quickly grasp the Jets' defensive playbook after spending the week leading up to minicamp watching 10 DVDs of the Jets' defensive fronts from last season.
"We love the fact that he thinks he has it down," Ryan said. "This is one practice. He's got like four defenses in and our library's a little more extensive than that.
"I like his confidence. The great thing is we will hold him to it now."
Speaking of confidence, Hill and Davis have it in abundance. Hill -- whom the Jets need for both his ability as a blocker and field-stretching skills as a receiver as they try to bring back a "ground-and-pound" approach and add the deep threat that was absent last year -- hasn't shied away from comparisons to the likes of Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson and declared last week he'd like to be even better than the all-time duo.
"Those aren't guys I'm going to be," Hill said. "I'm going to be my own self. I'm trying to take their game and put it into mine so I can be the best I can be, or be better than them."
Davis, meanwhile, will inject some much-needed youth into an aging linebacker corps. And if he ends up a hybrid of the two best linebackers to play the game in the past 30 years? Well, that would work too.
"I try to play with the recklessness and havoc that Lawrence Taylor played with, and try to have the leadership and passion Ray Lewis has," Davis said.
No wonder Ryan likes him so much.