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New York Jets season preview

There’s been a changing of the guard for the New York Jets in 2013, with rookie general manager John Idzik now in charge of the football operations. Idzik has brought a new energy to the Jets this off-season, one that has head coach Rex Ryan feeling as comfortable as ever, ready to prove his critics wrong.

While there may be some uncertainty regarding Ryan’s future with the organization, the fifth-year coach is squarely focused on the things he can control in the here and now. Still one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in all of football, Ryan is focused on coaching up a young, athletic defense hands-on, as he’s set to take over defensive play-calling duties again this season, after the Jets parted ways with former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

One thing that’s noticeable throughout off-season workouts and training camp has been the Jets’ philosophy of competition, competition, competition.

All throughout camp, the Jets have had internal competition at nearly every position on the field, and they’re hoping that high-intensity on the practice field leads to improved efficiency when the season kicks off for real this month.

The quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith was arguably the biggest story throughout the preseason, but the signal callers are far from the only ones competing for a starting spot, even right down to the wire. The starting strong safety and left guard jobs (among others) are still up in the air even at press time, and that competition won’t end when the preseason does, either.

Regardless of who earns the Week 1 start for the Jets, they’ll have to keep earning those reps throughout the season by being the best player on the field in practice each and every day, each and every week. Every player who gets on the field for the Jets will be there based on merit, and despite a roster full of inexperienced, unproven talent, the Jets have a chance to surprise the folks who have them pegged for a 4- or 5-win season and a high draft pick.

Ryan’s defense may be as strong as ever in 2013, led by a trifecta of young, athletic defensive linemen in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson. Wilkerson has already established himself as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and together the three big bodies up front offer Ryan endless possibilities in his defensive scheme with their speed, strength and versatility to line up and play all over the field.

Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie is now the undisputed leader of the secondary, a role he’s taken on with pride, as he’s shed the immaturity label that followed him early in his career and emerged as a true role model for his young teammates, on and off the field.

The bottom line is that you can expect the Jets’ defense to be good. Under Ryan, they’ve been one of the better defenses in the league, year after year, and 2013 should be no different. Even if there are some growing pains with the young talent on defense, Ryan has proven time after time that he can coach a defense with the best of them, no matter what.

Of course, the Jets’ chances of truly competing at a high level this season rest on the shoulders of their offense. Whether it’s Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith leading the huddle, new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg might just be the most important man in the building. For the first time, Rex Ryan has an experienced veteran OC who he can comfortably delegate power to, and if Mornhinweg can find creative ways to move the football, Ryan and his defense will give the Jets a chance to win on a weekly basis.

If all goes according to plan, there’s no reason why the Jets can’t make a legitimate run at a winning season and earn Ryan a well-deserved contract extension. But in the NFL, rarely does everything go according to plan. How Ryan, his coaches and his players handle the challenges ahead will go a long way towards shaping these Jets, in 2013 and beyond.

Jon Presser is the lead host of NGN’s New York Jets podcast, “Press Coverage: Jets Talk with Jon Presser,” live every Tuesday at 7:30 pm ET. Follow “Press Coverage” on Twitter: @PressCoverNYJ

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