- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brash Rex made a brief appearance Thursday. Well, let's say it was Brash Rex Lite.
On the eve of rookie camp, Rex Ryan spoke confidently about his team, saying he expects the New York Jets to be a playoff contender. That's hardly an outlandish statement, considering they finished 8-8 last season. But Ryan, a guest on WFAN radio, made a borderline comical remark when he said, "I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not so sure there’s too many teams that want to play us."
Oh, really? There aren't many teams that don't want to face a second-year quarterback who threw 21 interceptions as a rookie? Aren't too many teams that don't want a face a pass defense that allowed nearly 4,000 yards? Interesting. Consider this: The Jets were outscored by 97 points last season, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. In other words, they were a soft 8-8.
Obviously, they made several high-profile acquisitions in the offseason, so maybe they can turn weaknesses into strengths. Maybe Chris Johnson can turn back the clock a couple of years. Maybe Eric Decker will show he's not a Peyton Manning creation. But questions remain, especially at quarterback and cornerback.
Sticking to his talking points on the potentially volatile quarterback situation, Ryan reiterated that Geno Smith will "be hard to beat out, and I truly believe that. Just seeing him throw the ball around here, he’s got a much better understanding of what we want at that position. He knows the offense forward and backwards and he is really throwing the football well."
To cover his bases, Ryan also said Michael Vick "definitely" has a chance to win the job in the preseason.
Cornerback is a concern, too. Ryan predicted that former No. 1 pick Dee Milliner will be "special," also acknowledging that free-agent pickup Dimitri Patterson is expected to start opposite Milliner. That hardly solves the issues at the position.
The coach who hasn't reached the postseason in three consecutive years believes his team will be in the hunt.
"I’m not going to guarantee playoffs or all that, but absolutely, I know what our goal is and I believe we can reach it," said Ryan, the eternal optimist.
No one sells tickets better than him.