NEW YORK (AP) Rex Ryan stays away from bold guarantees and eye-popping predictions these days.
It's just not his style. Well, at least anymore.
The New York Jets coach is still plenty confident in his team, and he let them know that Monday when his players gathered at the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., for their first set of voluntary workouts.
"I talked to our team about how I feel, about what our fans expect," Ryan said of his opening message. "To me, it's time to deliver. We need to deliver.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics about what we're delivering, but I know what our fans expect, and they're going to get everything we have."
Every coach's goal is to get to the Super Bowl, of course, and Ryan has made that clear since he got the job with the Jets in 2009. But after an 8-8 finish that saved Ryan's job despite the team missing out on the postseason for the third straight season, there's a clear sense of optimism around the franchise.
"Obviously, you can't start from where you left off, but we knew we were a team that was ascending," Ryan said during a conference call. "I think that is important to us."
Some of the "buzz," as Ryan described it, can be attributed to high-profile free-agent signings such as quarterback Michael Vick, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker this offseason. All three were considered arguably the best available players at their positions in free agency, and provide significant improvements.
While general manager John Idzik has been deliberate this offseason, he has also been thrifty. The Jets are still about $26 million under the salary cap, a figure that places them among teams with the most space to work with. And, they've also got a whopping 12 draft picks.
"I think we have a great nucleus of a team," Ryan said. "We've laid that foundation last year and I think we're just going to build to it this year."
Part of the late-season success last year in which the Jets won three of their last four was the result of Geno Smith becoming more efficient as a rookie. Still, he headed into the offseason uncertain as to whether the Jets considered him the quarterback of the future, or even the present - a situation that became murkier when they signed Vick.
But the second-year quarterback has praised the addition, and reiterated that he's looking forward to competing with a player of Vick's experience. Smith also isn't afraid to make guarantees. When asked Monday if he still think he'll win the starting job, Smith responded with a simple, yet confident, "Yes."
Smith explained that he's more comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, and he'll be able to also lean on Vick, who played under the coordinator when the two were in Philadelphia. Even Vick said he's coming to the Jets with the thinking that the starting job is Smith's - for now.
"I respect what Mike said, but I understand there's a competition," Smith said. "It comes down to what we do on the field."
Ryan doesn't think Vick's presence will be a deterrent to Smith's progress. In fact, the coach believes just the opposite.
"I think his physical skills are going to push Geno," Ryan said of Vick. "It's not like you don't have a great quarterback sitting right there, pushing you, because that's what he'll do. He'll push you. He's a tremendous player, a very talented guy. It will be great for Geno."
The Jets finished 29th in overall offense, a ranking that should drastically improve with the additions of Johnson and Decker. Despite the lack of true playmakers last season, Smith refused to point the blame anywhere but to himself.
"If I had done a lot of things better, we'd have done better as an offense," he said. "It showed throughout the year, but that has come and gone."
Ryan said the Jets haven't promised a certain number of carries for Johnson, who adds some blazing speed to a running game that finished sixth in the NFL behind Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. The former Tennessee Titans 2,000-yard rusher gives the offense a dimension out of the backfield it hasn't seen in years.
"He's a highlight reel waiting to happen," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.
Added Smith: "As long as everyone competes and gets better at every single spot, it can do wonders for us all."
NOTES: As expected, the Jets picked up their fifth-year option on DE Muhammad Wilkerson last week, paying him $6.96 million in 2015 after making $1.2 million this upcoming season. ... Richardson, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, was asked if he thinks he'll be able to improve on his 3 1/2 sacks from last season. "Mosssst definitely," Richardson said, using one of his favorite phrases. "That's not even close to what I have as far as standards for myself."