FLORHAM PARK N.J. - The first day of training camp is here and although players didn't take the field to practice, players are excited to check in, take their conditioning tests, and begin the process of building a successful team.
"As a team we're just trying to progress and get better," said Jets free safety Marcus Gilchrist. That's a phrase you'll hear a lot in the next few weeks of camp, and for the Jets this rings true after missing out on the playoffs last year.
"That's the goal every year," said veteran linebacker David Harris, when asked if he thought the team could accomplish that fete this season. Inside linebacker Erin Henderson had similar thoughts saying, "I believe so," relaying his sentiments about the teams ability to make the post-season.
We all know that defense plays a gigantic role in how the Jets want to approach the game of football. This year will be no different and Gilchrist is sure of it.
"It's going to be real fun especially after having a year under your belt in this defense, and getting to go at it again for the second time going and knowing the defense better," said Gilchrist. Gilchrist will suit up for the second straight year as the teams free safety after joining the Jets last year after playing with the San Diego Chargers.
Todd Bowles expects a lot out of his defense this year, especially from his revamped linebacking group. Particularly Henderson who will be manning the inside position along with Harris.
"You want to come in and set the example early and often, try to show people who you are and what you're about," said Henderson. Henderson will be taking a vocal leadership role on the field this season, which is something we had a sneak preview of during OTAs.
"You'll probably see a lot more of it. We'll put pads on and we'll be able to actually put a little hitting with the talking," said Henderson. "I'm not really a huge fan of just going out there and running my mouth so you'll probably hear a little bit more of it."
Bowles is in his second year as a head coach and shot caller of the defense. As he gets more comfortable with his role, the player's get more acclimated to his coaching style as well. Having familiarity with your coach is key for any player, and for linebackers it's even more essential because they are an extension of the play-caller.
"It definitely makes a big difference once you get a chance to get the feel for a person and figure out what they are, and who they are and what their character's like," said Henderson.
The re-signing of Muhammad Wilkerson will certainly bolster the defensive unit this season making everyone else' job much easier. "I'm looking forward to getting him back out on the field. I love playing behind Mo, he does a great job for our defense and for our defensive line. He does a good job keeping me clean and allowing me to make plays," said Henderson.
When it's all said and done veteran leadership and performance will decide if the defense conquers its playoff aspirations.
"We got a lot of core guys back so we're trying to just build off of what we did last year. We've got a lot of veteran guys," said Gilchrist. "We're just working on right now."
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)