By Larry Fine
Those key components were shaken in last week's loss to the Oakland Raiders, introducing doubts about a team that surprised oddsmakers by reaching the last two AFC championship games in the first two seasons of the Ryan regime.
"Our defense let us down," Ryan told reporters after the defeat in Oakland.
The defeat makes Sunday's game against the defensive-minded Ravens in Baltimore urgent for the Jets (2-1), who are loathe to lag behind the surprising Buffalo Bills (3-0) and mainstays New England Patriots (2-1) in the competitive AFC East.
Even Hall of Famer Joe Namath, the charismatic quarterback who "guaranteed" the Jets' upset win over the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl following the 1968 season, sounded an alarm.
Namath took aim at Ryan's coaching style and said the team might have been overly cocky and underestimated the Raiders.
"These guys might be believing that they're better than they are," Namath said in a recent interview with ESPN Radio.
"Rex has been the only coach that we know that keeps continually telling his guys how good they are. And they have been pretty good - pretty good - but they haven't won a championship yet."
Ryan, who unabashedly touts his defense as one of the most fearsome forces in the National Football League, went on the defensive when asked about the remarks by 68-year-old Namath, whose team gave the Jets franchise their only Super Bowl win.
"I'm not going to change who I am because Joe Namath said something. Joe Namath can come in here and if he can still throw, we'll have him as a backup quarterback. He doesn't know our team. He's on the outside," Ryan, previously a defensive coordinator for the Ravens, told reporters at the team practice facility this week.
"Even though he's a Jet - and once you're a Jet, you're always a Jet - he's on the outside. He's not in these meetings. I think if he was, he'd be shocked at the preparation."
The Jets may have been prepared, but they did not execute on the gridiron as Oakland rushed for 234 yards, registering 7.3 yards per carry and four touchdowns in a 34-24 win.
"Embarrassing," defensive tackle Sione Pouha said after the game. "It was humiliating for us to have something like that happen."
Next up for the Jets is a Ravens (2-1) team that learned a lesson about complacency in their second game.
Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis said he expects an all-out battle in Baltimore.
"We are a physical team. That's what we go by. That's our identity," said Revis. "We know this upcoming game is going to be very physical and tough. We know the Ravens are going to bring it, and we're going to prepare hard this week."
Jets safety Jim Leonhard, a former Ravens player, knows what the atmosphere will be like.
"It's an emotional game. Anytime you play them, they bring a lot of emotion," said Leonhard. "You have to match that, especially at their place. It's a great crowd. We have to go in there with the right attitude. We need a win."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)