Under Rex Ryan's watch, the New York Jets are perennially a top ten defensive team. Even through key injuries and personnel changes, Ryan's unit has always been the foundation on which the team is built on.
Ryan told reporters this week that he believes the 2013 Jets will be a top-five defense in the NFL. With their first full season after the Revis-Era, and with the loss of Quinton Coples for the start of the regular season, Gang Green has to make adjustments and personnel changes once again to remain relevant. Some may think that these changes will affect their play and but team leader and veteran, Antonio Cromartie thinks this is not the case.
"I think for me, I agree with him [Rex Ryan] 100 percent," said Cromartie of the defense cracking the NFL's top five. "It's just about us going out and making sure that we do our jobs and making sure we cut down on mental errors and cut out the self-inflicted wounds. For us, we feel like we have a good front seven to get to the quarterback, (we) just (have) to make sure we're communicating from the safeties to the linebackers and out to the corners."
The self-inflicted wounds and errors, both mental and in communication, hurt the Jets last week against the Jaguars. The team looked sloppy and the play on the opposite side of Cromartie looked rough without Revis. First-round draft pick out of Alabama, Dee Milliner, appeared to be overwhelmed and picked on out of the gate in last week's preseason game. Cromartie contends that rookie corners should expect to be picked on in the passing game.
"That's just something that as a rookie corner that you're going to have to fight with your entire rookie year," noted Cromartie. "For us, having a guy of Dee Milliner's caliber, it's great for us. For him, it was a learning experience. For us, we can now set the standards for him where we know where he needs to be." Confidence in a rookie from veteran teammates will help Milliner adjust to being targeted by quarterbacks in the NFL, after being avoided by so many in college."
Coming off a slow start during the Jacksonville game, critics are arguing that the defense could be a major concern this upcoming season.
"Well, actually that's no concern at all," declared Cromartie. "That game is in the past. For us it's just trying to make sure that we start fast in practice and make sure we're picking up our keys and our cues and making sure that we're communicating to the best of our ability to make sure guys are on the same page and that we're doing the things that we need to do if we're going to play a lot faster."
For Cromartie, confidence in his teammates is running high and the expectations are even higher. With talented, young players, like Milliner, and a great defensive mind in Ryan, Gang Green could very well rise to a top-five defensive unit once again.