FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Not only did the New York Jets lack chemistry last season, but they were out of shape, too.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, reflecting on the team's defensive decline in 2011, blamed a lack of proper conditioning. Seven months later, the hits just keep coming.
"When you evaluate yourself, last year, yeah (it was a problem)," Revis said Wednesday after practice. "If you look at the previous two years, the AFC Championship Games, we were well conditioned, guys were very focused. I think we got away from that this past year and you could see it. You could see it on film sometimes during the two-minute drill. In the fourth quarter, guys would be gassed."
The Jets are confident that won't be a problem again. They'd better be right because, with the offense experiencing growing pains in Tony Sparano's system, the defense probably will have to carry the team the early part of the season, perhaps longer.
A Rex Ryan-coached team always will be built around defense, but the burden could be even greater than usual. Eventually, the Jets will score a touchdown, but the offense doesn't have the look of a high-scoring unit.
In two preseason games, the Jets have yet to reach the end zone.
Linebacker Calvin Pace, who has heard this song many times during his five years with the team, offered a piece of advice to the offense.
"The one thing I hope is, just let it all hang out. We got you," said Pace, speaking on behalf of the defense. "Don't worry about holding back."
In three seasons under Ryan, the Jets finished first, third and fifth in total defense, respectively. After signing two new safeties, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, and drafting defensive players in the first and third rounds (Quinton Coples and Demario Davis), the Jets believe they'll be faster than before.
Ryan has high hopes for the defense, but he stopped short of gushing. The new Ryan, trying to be less bombastic than the old version, caught himself in mid-word. He was about to say the defense has the potential to be special, but he actually stopped at "s-p."
"I think this can be a really good defense, and I mean a really good defense," Ryan said.
Ryan said "the one thing I'm concerned with" is the overall conditioning of the defense. The reason, he said, is because they'll be facing teams that like to use a no-huddle attack. They always get that from the New England Patriots, but he expects to see no-huddle from the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, their Week 1 opponent.
"We have to be in unbelievable shape," he said.
Ryan said he was talking recently with Revis, mentioning to his star cornerback that conditioning and on-field communication will be the key factors in their bid to return to No. 1 in total defense. They expect to be improved in both areas.
The Jets placed an emphasis on communication, dating to the first day of OTAs. Ryan took a back-to-basics approach, re-teaching the material that was first installed in 2009. It was Defense 101, the Rex Ryan version.
"It was like, 'Revis, you're here' -- basic stuff like that," Pace said. "It was a little monotonous, but it was needed. When you do something for so long, you take certain things for granted."
The hope is that improved communication with make for a smoother operation on the field. If Ryan decides to take the play-calling duties -- he appears to be leaning that way -- that also could streamline the communication. Ryan is closer to the action than defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who called the plays last season from the coaches' box.
The Jets allowed 100 points in the fourth quarter, their worst quarter last season, backing up Revis' claim. They also experienced problems with hurry-up situations, although not at the end of halves.
In the final two minutes of the first half, they allowed only 23 points, tied for fifth-best in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the final two minutes of regulation, they surrendered only 10 points, tied for ninth.
Stamina could be an issue if the offense can't sustain drives, which has been the case in the preseason. If that carries over into the season, it will put a tremendous strain on the defense.
"I really hope we can do this together," Pace said. "I hope it's not one side of the ball way up and the other side down."