ROUNDTABLE: Tough Talk or Just Smack

The smack talk started when former Ravens, LB Bart Scott and assistant Rex Ryan, arrived in New York and worked to establish the Jets as the new tough guys of the division. The chatter hasn't died down yet. Patriots Insider staffers share their thoughts on the war of words.

1) The Jets have been busy rebuilding their team with high profile players and head coach. Are the comments coming from Rex Ryan, Kerry Rhodes and Bart Scott just tough talk, or are the Jets the new "tough guys" of the AFC East?
Rex Ryan
"I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's ... rings. I came here to win. I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else." -- Rex Ryan on WFAN Radio

Shane Leketa: Tough guys? Let's take it with a grain of salt here. The New York Jets have been looking up at the Patriots for a decade. Why wouldn't they try to show their swagger and let the fans know that they are not afraid of a team that did not make it into the playoffs last year. The Jets have made some great improvements in acquiring Lito Sheppard and moving up the draft board to get Sanchez and changing their head coach from the failure that departed named Mangini. So, wouldn't you be optimistic about your chances if you made these types of changes? I know I would.

James Christensen: The Jets might be the self-proclaimed "tough guys" of the AFC East, but last time I checked, that doesn't earn you any points. With the acquisition of Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and Jim Leonhard, they have improved significantly on paper, but the calendar still says June. Let me know if they are still talking in January.

LoVell Parkman: With the players that joined the Jets in the offseason from a good Baltimore defense they will be much improved. Ray Lewis was the unquestioned emotional leader of the Ravens defense. Last time I checked he is still wearing a Ravens uniform. They will not be as intense as the Ravens defense was however they will be good.

Being a tough guy is one thing, trying to be a wannabe thug is another. It will come down to execution and discipline. Last time the Ravens met the Patriots in Baltimore during New England's undefeated regular season a certain Ravens player became unglued and lost as a pass interference penalty was call at the end of the game. A fifteen-yard penalty against new jet linebacker Bart Scott effectively ended any comeback chances. (Replays clearly showed that that penalty occurred and should have been called). If they punch the Patriots, then New England will punch them back.

Jim Poore: I think the talk is just tough. However, I do think the Jets are going to be pretty good as long as they find a quarterback. I think it is good for Rex Ryan to talk the way he is. He is showing that he isn't afraid of the "master" Bill Belichick. He is getting his team and the city fired up. There is nothing wrong with that. The only thing that might prove costly with his tough talk is if his team doesn't show it on the field. There is no question Bill Belichick will have his comments posted all over the Patriots locker room.

Kisha Tapangan: Honestly, the term "tough guy" does not bring the image of Rex Ryan to my head. Ryan has the chance to build a team that could be a threat in the AFC East, but as we saw last season, having an experienced quarterback at the helm, and a 9-7 season wasn't enough to bring a team anywhere near the Super Bowl. It also seems like the quarterback battle in New York is lacking an obvious choice. Sorry Mark Sanchez, but this isn't a popularity contest. I think that until they find a stable and skilled quarterback, there isn't even a chance that all the talk coming from Ryan, Rhodes and Scott will actually amount to anything more than a decent season. Rebuilding brings hope for a franchise but does not guarantee success.

Jon Scott: All the talk in June is just that, talk. I'm not surprised Ryan is trying to be different from Eric Mangini after the stoic, failed Patriots in NY show closed on Broadway. Mangini is the anti-Ryan, preferring to be as dry as a possible in his press conferences. Ryan doesn't buy into the Belichick-ian rulebook of not allowing players to talk without permission, he doesn't care if there's bulletin board material, and he genuinely believes his way works because he's seen it in action. The snippets Ryan's press conferences and the sound bites of the players is just a bit of pre-season puffery. I expect plenty more of it as we approach the season. And tough talk doesn't make tough teams, it's just a bunch of hot air until the W-L column is on your side. Even then, it doesn't mean anything until you win a championship.


Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, right, and New England Patriots tackle Matt Light fight during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008 in Miami. Both were ejected from the game and the Patriots defeated the Dolphins 48-28. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

2) The Miami Dolphins -- specifically Joey Porter and Channing Crowder -- have taken exception to all the talk that the Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC East. Are they right? Is Miami still the team to beat or were they just luck last season?

Leketa: If you look at the divisions in the National Football League, you will clearly see that the AFC East is going to be the toughest division. With the return of Brady for the Patriots, the acquisition of Terrell Owens in Buffalo, the previously mentioned moves by the Jets, and the past season to build on for the Dolphins, how can you not talk trash in a league where egos and confidence are abundant throughout. We have heard these types of comments from Joey Porter in the past and frankly, we should be used to it by now. It wouldn't matter if the Dolphins were 1-15, he would still boast and make it look like he is on the best 1-15 team ever assembled. We will just have to see as the season unfolds.

Christensen: Miami never was the team to beat. They couldn't finish off the Patriots on the field, so they had to do it in the tiebreaker standings. In 2009, a healthy Tom Brady won't be so kind as to give them such a chance. Joey Porter isn't any younger and Channing Crowder, who was ejected in last year's game, didn't get any smarter. Once again, let the Dolphins fight for respect in June, the Patriots care about January.

Parkman: They can take exception to it because the truth of the matter is no one except the Dolphins and maybe former players and South Beach media believes they will win the division. The last two good teams that the Dolphins faced last year, the Patriots and Ravens both beat Miami decisively. Does Brady give the Patriots a better chance to win this year? Of course he does. Miami has a much tougher schedule this year than last. The Wildcard offense will not catch as many people off guard as it did last. In fact teams should be more prepared for it.

Bottom line it's what the Patriots have done to improved themselves. Two new tight ends who can block. A new running back who has had success in the NFL running the football and two new additions in the secondary. Add those to a decent draft and you have to say the hype is real.

Poore: I think the Dolphins have a right to be upset. They are the defending AFC Champs, so yes they should be considered the team to beat. I don't think they are the best team though. That honor will go to the Patriots, at least right now. I think the Dolphins won last year because they were better than people expected, and they snuck up on people. Let us not forget that they absolutely pasted the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. That should count for something, even if they did lose at home to New England.

Tapangan: Miami will be strong because of two things: the Wildcat offense (I'm still not a fan of this, but it works for them) and new additions like QB Pat White and CB's Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Chad Pennington had something to prove last year, this time around I think, will be a little different and the Patriots being in full force has everything to do with it. New England went 11-5 with a back up QB and an aging offensive line. Miami had to get a new quarterback, adopt a new offensive system and have their running back throw a pass to get to the same exact record. Teams don't get THAT lucky in the NFL, the Dolphins just came out strong early in the season and Pennington fit well with the team. New England is still the team to beat in the league.

Scott: Whether the Dolphins won the AFC East last year or not means little in 2009, much the same way the Patriots' Super Bowl appearance in the 2007 season didn't mean much in 2008. Crowder wants to stake his claim as the AFC East champion from last year and that's his prerogative. What should concern Miami is their point differential in wins v losses was just 28 - the second lowest among all 8 division winners except the Arizona Cardinal (1). New England, which tied Miami's 11-5 record last season, managed a 101 point differential with a backup RB, QB and defenders.

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