Commentary

None shall pass: Jets' D eyes history

In pass-happy NFL, Gang Green defense gunning for historic season in 2010

Updated: August 10, 2010, 12:50 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- It's the middle of August and training camp in Cortland State is a long way from a January playoff game in Indianapolis. But you can still see the aftereffects of the Jets' AFC title game loss to the Colts everywhere you look now on the Jets' defense. At safety, at cornerback, out on the edge where the pass-rushers line up, every big offseason addition the Jets' defense made was pulled off with one thing in mind: addressing what beat them in the last 30 minutes of that AFC title game.

To get to the Super Bowl -- let alone win it -- the Jets know they couldn't stop at having the No. 1 defense they had last year. That's just a nice little stat if you don't win anything.

What the Jets want -- and what some of them think they're going to have now -- is a defense that's built to dominate what's become a passing league.

"I think we can have the kind of defense that turns up on those best-ever lists on the NFL Network," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said Monday.

"A historic defense."

A boast like that would constitute a headline day for most players, but Monday was actually a bit of a subdued day for Scott, the second most ambitious talker on the Jets after head coach Rex Ryan.

Scott wasn't making everyone laugh like he did the other day when he deadpanned how "electric" it was to have massive Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins back from a knee injury this season because "I don't have to do anything. All I do is wait for him to do what he [does] and I wait for the spillage." And Scott wasn't sharing any trade secrets like the simple approach he takes to helping along a rookie like guard Vladimir Ducasse.

"You just have to light his young [butt] up," Scott joked. "You teach him by making him break ... After you defeat him and smack him around a little bit, then you send [what he's doing wrong] to him in a text message."

At least Ducasse knows the Jets' blitzing, gambling defense embarrassed a lot of players last year. How the unit played turned into exactly what Scott promised when he rolled into New York from Baltimore with Ryan. That's why Scott doesn't care about critics who gripe about the Jets shooting off their mouths, again, when he talks of being a "historic" defense.

The Jets are only one week into training camp, and Scott says the outsiders don't see what he and the other returning Jets see in Cortland in the offseason additions to the defense -- safety Brodney Pool, pass-rushing specialist Jason Taylor, rookie corner Kyle Wilson and, most of all, former Pro Bowl corner Antonio Cromartie.

"We sit around and talk all the time about being that defense again that nobody wants to play," Jets linebacker David Harris said.

"With the one-on-one corners we have now, I think teams are going to have a hard time completing passes on us," Calvin Pace added.

"Other teams can think whatever they like, but I can tell them what they're going to get," Scott said. "They're going to get a ferocious defense that flies around the ball, multiple fronts, a team that's going to be physical, that's going to try to make every tackle, every hit count.

"We try to make sure we put good film out there to make teams know what they're going to feel before we ever even play. You can say a lot of things. But you are what you are on film."

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum admitted Monday that what the Colts exposed about the Jets after they led Indy by 10 at halftime of the AFC title game was "a big part of the calculation" that drove how he aggressively he retooled the defense in the offseason. The film of that game -- like the four regular-season games the Jets lost late -- didn't lie either. And Ryan has always had some strong thoughts about how any defense that aspires to be great should be built.

"Part of the moves we made goes back to the story about when I hired Rex and called Ozzie [Newsome] in Baltimore to ask about him, and Ozzie made the joke that Rex is the sort of guy who's always standing out on I-95 with a sign around his neck that says, 'I NEED CORNERBACKS,'" Tannenbaum laughed. "So there's always that.

"But a big part of it, too, was not just Peyton [Manning] and that Indy game. There's also Tom Brady and [Philip] Rivers and Chad Henne in Miami -- it's everyone we have to go through, even just in the AFC."

So far the most promising addition has been bringing in Cromartie to complement Revis. Tannenbaum was mindful of how it was the Colts' second- and third-best receivers -- basically, whomever Revis wasn't covering -- who brought Indy back in the AFC title game. And Cromartie has looked terrific, which has helped distract the Jets' players from the fact that Tannenbaum and Jets owner Woody Johnson said again Monday that Revis' contract holdout could drag on for a long time.

"The hardest place to play in the league is opposite a No. 1 cornerback, a stud cornerback, because everyone is going to challenge the opposite corner," Scott said. "But I think we have a corner [Cromartie] now that's capable of stepping up to the task. He's a No. 1 corner as well ... a Pro Bowl player."

Scott didn't go on to brag the Jets were going to light anybody up the way he joked about Ducasse. Again, Scott was just matter-of-fact -- or as matter-of-fact as you can be when saying your defense can be good enough to make NFL history. He could be right. Or it could blow up in the Jets' faces.

Smiling, Scott said, "I'm not worried about a thing."

Johnette Howard is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

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