Published November 20, 2014
Darrelle Revis stepped onto the practice field with his New York Jets teammates for the first time this offseason and immediately noticed all the smiles.
"You could just see the looks on guys' faces of what we've got and what we can be," Revis told The Associated Press. "We're going to have to work hard for it, though."
The stinging disappointment of their AFC championship game loss in Indianapolis is long gone. So are some of the players who helped them get there. Still, the Jets are out to prove they're as good as they - and many others - say they are.
"There's a lot of predictions by people and a lot of people putting us up on that pedestal, talking Super Bowl," Revis said. "I look at it as being good and all, but we don't want to be paper champs."
It's not such a bad place to be in May, when teams typically have more questions than answers. After all, the regular season doesn't begin for another four months, but the Jets sure feel good about what they've got going right now.
"We have a team that should win it," Revis said, "and we have to come together collectively to get the job done."
That first step began Monday when Rex Ryan's bunch held the first of several organized team activities in advance of next month's minicamp. It put a team with plenty of new faces on the practice field together for the first time this offseason.
"There was just a lot of excitement built up with the guys we brought in and the guys we had coming back," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "Everyone just wanted to go out there and see it all together at once. I don't think we disappointed at all."
There was Santonio Holmes on the field in three-wide receiver sets with Cotchery and Braylon Edwards, and LaDainian Tomlinson lined up in the backfield. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee, even got some throws in.
An already imposing defense that ranked No. 1 in the league last season added former Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie, playmaking safety Brodney Pool and first-round pick Kyle Wilson to team with Revis.
"It's kind of ridiculous," Cotchery said with a laugh. "We warmed up and you look across and you see Cromartie, and there's Revis standing next to him. You see the young kid, Kyle Wilson, as the third corner and it's mind-boggling. Then, you step into the huddle and you look at our wide receivers. It's just crazy."
Many fans and media have criticized Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum for tinkering too much with chemistry by unloading team leaders such as Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Alan Faneca, Kerry Rhodes and Jay Feely. The Jets believe team unity begins to develop now.
"My main thing is hoping that these guys want to win," said Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP with Pittsburgh. "I know what it feels like to win a Super Bowl, and I'm not sure if all those guys on the team now besides myself knows what it feels like. That's all we have to worry about."
Winning the big one is a priority for the Jets, and the offseason moves are a testament to that. By bringing in a downfield threat such as Holmes to team with a tall target like Edwards and a consistent receiver like Cotchery, there's sure to be more balls in the air this season.
"Right now, I think the sky's the limit," Holmes said. "Hearing Coach Rex talk about this group of receivers and our ability to make plays and pushing forward to be one of the top groups in the NFL, it's our duty to make that happen. We don't want it to be just a defensive team, where they get all the shine."
The wide receivers believe they'll only get better by facing a group Revis calls the most athletic he's ever been a part of. And, the feeling's mutual.
"It's going to be great competition every single day, and that's something you look forward to," Cromartie said. "We feel we have the best secondary, and now we have the best receiving corps also."
Practices might be quite the sight this year with Revis, Cromartie and Wilson matching up with Cotchery, Holmes and Edwards.
"That's the plan for us, that by the time we get to gametime, we feel like it's going to be cake," Cotchery said. "We want the secondary to feel like they're not getting enough work on gameday."
Added Cromartie: "We'll be dealing with different types of receivers in practice so, by the time you get into the games, you've already dealt with every type you can deal with."
At least, that's the plan. And the Jets hope Monday was just the beginning of what could be a special season.
"It was right on cue, just a competitive day," Cotchery said. "Everyone was already so focused. It was a lot of fun watching all of that talent flying around. "