Ryan predicts top-5 defense -- again

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- There he goes again.

In what can be described as Rex being Rex, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan predicted a top-five finish in total defense. He said the same thing in 2012, and he said it again last year. It's a rite of summer, just like baseball, barbecues and the beach.

"Top five is to be expected, that's what I know," Ryan said Wednesday after the final open practice in Cortland.

"I know we'll have a tremendous defense, there's no doubt. That's one thing that you can say throughout the years. I've been right on that, and I'll be right on this."

There's a little bit of revisionist history going on here. The Jets finished 11th in total defense last season (based on yards allowed), eighth in 2012. Truth be told, they're on a statistical nose dive.

In Ryan's first season, 2009, they finished first in total defense. It was a dominant unit, led by cornerback Darrelle Revis. They slipped to third in 2010 and fifth in 2011. The drop to 11th last year was a surprise, but let's be fair: It was a rebuilt unit, with seven new starters.

"I don't think it'll be there this year," Ryan said. "I think we'll get back to where we're accustomed to being. That's at least top five, but our goals will be set higher than that."

The Jets return every starter in a stout front seven, but the secondary is in a state of flux. Cornerback Dee Milliner is out a few weeks with a severe ankle sprain, former safety Antonio Allen is playing cornerback and rookie safety Calvin Pryor is playing catch-up after missing more than a week with a concussion. Others are injured, too, including projected starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson.

You think the uncertainty will douse Ryan's optimism? Not a chance. Defense is his family business. His father, Buddy, was the coordinator of the celebrated 1985 Chicago Bears. Rex was the defensive-line coach on the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who hold the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season.

"Most Ryans are up there," he said. "I think we have five or six in that category. It just kind of seems that it works that way."

Actually, the Ravens are the only Ryan-coached team in the top 10 for fewest points allowed, but you get the point. The man is confident in what he does.