- Rich Cimini, ESPN New York Jets reporter
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets owned the NFL's best defense last season. You can look it up in the stats. What could they possibly do for an encore? After all, what's better than the best?
Bart Scott has something in mind -- something big.
"You try to be the No. 1 defense -- ever," the loquacious linebacker said Thursday without flinching. "Why not?"
In an offseason of splashy personnel moves and bold predictions, Scott's lofty goal ranks up there with some of Rex Ryan's most colorful sound bites -- and that's saying something.
The Jets return nine starters from the top-ranked defense that lined up against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. They added to that foundation by trading for former San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, signing former Miami Dolphins pass rusher Jason Taylor and drafting cornerback Kyle Wilson in the first round.
Oh yes, nose tackle Kris Jenkins, limited to five games last season because of a knee injury, is expected back.
The Jets led the league in several statistical categories last season, including total yards (252 per game) and points allowed (14.8). But Scott realizes that a great defense needs a Super Bowl championship for validation. A member of the 2006 Ravens, Scott felt that defense played well enough to be mentioned with the all-time greats, but the team lost in the divisional playoffs. As a result, the D's dominance (12.6 points and 60 sacks) is under-appreciated.
"You have to win a Super Bowl to be in consideration," Scott said.
That the Jets played so well last season in a new system was remarkable. There were some growing pains -- three blown leads in the fourth quarter -- but they still posted ridiculous team numbers. Now, with a year of familiarity in Ryan's scheme, they expect the in-game communication to be improved.
Even though it's early, the Jets' collection of talent has made a strong impression on running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who was swallowed up by the Jets in last season's divisional playoffs.
"It's pretty scary, to be honest with you, to see the types of things they're doing out there," he said. "It's like controlled havoc."
It's a talented unit that mirrors Ryan's brash personality. Scott likes to call it a "swagger-licious" attitude. The best player is All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who, unlike many of his teammates, isn't a big talker. He's taking a wait-to-see approach before anointing the defense as an all-timer.
"Everybody is ranting and raving, saying, 'The Jets are this, the Jets are going to the Super Bowl,'" he said. "We're paper champs right now. We don't want to be paper champs. We have to focus on what we're doing this year and make sure guys are accountable. We have a lot of star players, but we have to bring it together as a team to be successful."
Scott believes it can -- and will -- be done because there's talent on top of talent. Using his cherry-on-top-of-the-sundae analogy, he said, "You eat [the ice cream], you get full and it's like, 'Damn, I get a cherry, too?'"
If the defense underachieves? Then you're talking pie in the face.
What could the New York Jets' defense possibly do for an encore? Bart Scott has something in mind -- something big.