Rex Ryan a big fan of Wes Welker

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots lost to the New York Jets in the second game of the 2009 season, the team was without receiver Wes Welker, who was sidelined with a knee injury.

Welker's presence was felt in the rematch a few months later when he had 15 receptions, and it turns out he's a favorite of Jets coach Rex Ryan for both his play and on-field confidence.

"That's a guy I totally respect," Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call. "He's a tough-as-nails guy. Of all the guys, he'll talk back and forth with me, with our assistant coaches, and I appreciate that."

Ryan was asked if he learned anything from Welker's big performance last November. He was quick with a response: The lesson is not to let it happen again.

"He's a match-up nightmare," he said. "Who are you going to put on him? [Tom] Brady and Welker work so well that if you press him he knows that he's going to shake man coverage, and when he gets the ball the way Brady delivers it, he gets the ball where he's got room to run. And that's what you've got to try and eliminate."

The Jets are coming off a 10-9 loss to the Ravens on Monday night, and Ryan said the result humbled him because the team was playing its first regular-season game in New Meadowlands Stadium.

"The fans were into it from start to finish, and it's such a disappointment. That was it more than anything else," he said. "We lost to a pretty good football team. I believe the Patriots lost to them in the playoffs the last time I looked."

At one point, it appeared that the Jets would sign free agent Adalius Thomas this week, but the team has put those plans on hold. Still, Ryan took the opportunity to defend Thomas, whom he had coached in Baltimore but who fizzled in New England.

"I think he played better than people give him credit for up there," Ryan said.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.