Willie Colon says Jets accepted mediocrity last year, but not anymore

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Veteran guard Willie Colon, who always has a finger on the pulse of the New York Jets' locker room, said Wednesday he can feel a greater sense of urgency under new coach Todd Bowles as compared to Rex Ryan. Under Ryan last season, there wasn't much of a pulse at all, Colon said.

"Last year, getting by and being mediocre was kind of OK at times," Colon told ESPN.com. "This year, we feel the competition level is high. You look around and you see legitimate ballplayers, working. It raises the competition level. You kind of feel like if you don't fit the mold of what Bowles wants, it'll be hard for you to survive."

This sort of thing happens when teams change coaches. The Jets enjoyed early success under Ryan, who led them to the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010, but things became stale last season and everything fell apart. Player tardiness was an issue, and it became an offseason headline when, in an April radio interview, tight end Jace Amaro said "we had an issue with that last year. Guys just weren't accountable last year as much as they could be."

Ryan took umbrage, firing back at Amaro in a couple of interviews. Colon backed Amaro then, and he did it again Wednesday when speaking to a group of reporters.

Colon started off by saying he has "the utmost respect for Rex," but he added: "We had our issues last year. If you're asking us to be accountable, part of being accountable is being truthful -- and that was one of our issues."

He didn't name names, but there were well-documented instances of lateness and missed meetings (see: Calvin Pryor and Geno Smith). Those players are back, but some high-profile, set-in-their-ways veterans are gone -- namely Michael Vick, Chris Johnson and Percy Harvin. Those players had carte blanche under Ryan.

Colon said the overall attitude bothered him at times.

"When you go 4-12 and you fight your tail off and you know you're doing your best and it comes off as guys that maybe don't seem as passionate as you do about the game ... sometimes it does bother you," he said. "But Coach Bowles is the new sheriff in town. I believe in him and I believe in the direction he's going. I feel like we won't have those issues."

Colon said developing chemistry will be vital to the success of the team. "Chemistry" happens to be one of Bowles' buzzwords.

"Ultimately, we're here to win," Colon said. "It's not a day care. Everyone shouldn't be sent to the principal's office. You're paid to go to work and be the best you can be -- and be the best you can be off the field, too. That's what Coach Bowles wants from us and that's what we should want from each other."