"It seems like the Jets pressure a bunch on defense," Ryan said with a grin after the Jets' first practice in preparation for Green Bay (4-3) on Sunday, "and it seems like this team is very effective running the football. They have some playmakers over there."
Before he took a few days off during the bye week, Ryan took the old phrase "know your opponent" to a new level.
Not only did the Jets' coach and his staff do some self-scouting after the first six games of the season, they also drew up a game plan as if they were about to face the Jets themselves.
On a more serious note, Ryan added, "We've done it both years (since he became head coach). It's a good thing. Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees and this just (shows) you how an opponent would look at you."
And when Ryan and his assistant coaches looked at their team, it became apparent that there is plenty of room for improvement, despite the fact that the Jets are tied for the NFL's best record at 5-1 with New England and Pittsburgh, both of which won Sunday.
When asked if the team had reached its peak, Ryan said, "I don't think we're close on either side of the ball."
The coach added that the Jets' best unit right now is special teams, which he called "about as good as there is."
But Ryan said both the offense and defense have to become better on third downs. The Jets enter their seventh game 22nd in the NFL in third-down efficiency on offense, and 24th on defense.
"We've talked about (improving) that throughout the year," Ryan said, "but it's time to take a bigger step."
"The bye week was definitely much needed," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the MVP of the Super Bowl when Pittsburgh beat Arizona. "It's a long grind, nine or 10 weeks for us from here on out, nonstop. ... The guys mentally prepared themselves for what's about to happen, how this long haul will affect our team.
"I'm definitely excited because I know what I'm up against," he added. "Around this time two years ago, in Pittsburgh, the same thing happened. We had a bye week around Week 6 or 7 (actually Week 5), and we had a long grind from here on out, so I know how to mentally prepare myself for this atmosphere. Hopefully, I can get these guys to understand and believe."
Ryan gave the players six days off after they had meetings last Monday, and they believe the time away from football was beneficial.
"Everyone's itching to get back at it," center Nick Mangold said. "I think our big goal is to finish what we started. ... You appreciate the opportunity to get away, (get) your mind away from it.
"Everyone's got a different philosophy" about byes, he added. "No one can say what's right or what's wrong but I think as a player it's appreciated to have that type of a break."
And now it's back to business.
"We're better now because of the break," Ryan said. "We're fresher. We have no excuses. Let's just go out and play."
Jets six-game report card
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Mark Sanchez's diligent offseason study and self-scouting has paid off, as the second-year quarterback doesn't resemble the turnover machine he was as a rookie. In fact, Sanchez went 149 consecutive passes without an interception until he was picked off twice against Denver in the game before the bye. Still, he must improve his accuracy, as his completion percentage of 55.4 is the worst among 2010 NFL starters who have held that job all season. TE Dustin Keller (24 receptions), WR Braylon Edwards (21) and Jerricho Cotchery (20) are reliable targets, and it will be interesting to see if Santonio Holmes can provide more big plays now that he is back in the mix after a four-game suspension. The protection has been better than expected as second-year LG Matt Slauson has proven to be a worthy replacement for Alan Faneca.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- LaDainian Tomlinson has emerged as the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year, as he enters Week 8 seventh in the AFC in rushing with 490 yards despite having fewer carries (92) than any of the six players in front of him. Tomlinson is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, up from 3.3 last season in his final year in San Diego. Shonn Greene is contributing 4.5 yards per carry after a slow start, and WR Brad Smith has been a terrific change of pace in the Wildcat and the occasional run from a conventional formation, averaging 7.8 yards on 13 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Darrelle Revis hasn't been the same Darrelle Revis as last season. A nagging hamstring injury, most likely a side effect of his training-camp holdout, caused him to miss two games and reduced him to a mere mortal in the four games he has played. Consider that the 17-yard TD catch by Denver's Demaryius Thomas was the third allowed by Revis in 2010. He permitted two TD receptions last season, including playoffs. That's three TD receptions allowed in four games, as opposed to two in 19 contests last season. But Revis and Rex Ryan say he is 100 percent healed. If he is, the Jets' defense will improve from its rank of 22nd against the pass. The pass rush has been inconsistent at best, although graybeards Shaun Ellis (3.5 sacks) and Jason Taylor (three) have something left in the tank. Rookie CB Kyle Wilson has been a disappointment and has been surpassed by Drew Coleman on the depth chart. CB Antonio Cromartie has been solid.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Jets are sixth in the league vs. the run, and are allowing only 3.5 yards per carry. Much like last season, they have had to do it without NT Kris Jenkins, lost for the season to a left knee injury in the first quarter on opening night. He made it through five-plus games in 2009 before being felled by the same injury. But once again, unheralded players such as Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito have stepped in to fill the void, with excellent support from LBs David Harris and Bart Scott. No individual rusher has topped 100 yards against the Jets this season, with Minnesota's prolific Adrian Peterson coming the closest with 88 yards on 18 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-plus -- In a word, wow. So much for pundits being worried whether Nick Folk could replace the reliable Jay Feely. Folk, who struggled last season and was released by Dallas, has recaptured his 2007 Pro Bowl form and is 13-for-15 on field-goal attempts while going 4-for-4 from 48-56 yards, the 56-yarder being a career-long. But that's not all for this unit. P Steve Weatherford is fifth in the NFL with a 40.1-yard net average, and has put 13 boots inside the 20. SS Jim Leonhard is fourth in the league in punt returns, averaging 12.3 yards and Brad Smith is second in the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging 31.8 with an 86-yarder. The Jets' coverage teams have been solid, too.
COACHING: A-minus -- Rex Ryan's player-friendly approach once again is getting the most out of his team, although it was be interesting to see if the Jets come back fresh or rusty after getting six days off during their bye week. Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine have had to blitz less frequently and play more coverage with Revis not at the top of his game. Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff has done a tremendous job, with the only major glitch in six games being Denver's successful second-quarter onside kick, which didn't lead to a score. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer seems to have figured out when to rein in Sanchez and when to turn him loose, and his use of Smith in the Wildcat has been expert.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.