FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The 1985 Chicago Bears, the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and… the 2023 New York Jets? When it comes to great defenses, Jets cornerback D.J. Reed believes his unit is good enough to be mentioned among the best in NFL history.
“I’m very confident,” Reed said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. “I think we have the potential to be the best defense in the NFL. Honestly, I think we can be historical, not just the best defense in the league, but I think we can be a historical defense like the ’85-’86 Bears and the LOB [Seahawks’ Legion of Boom] in 2013. I think we can be that dominant if we just put all the things together.”
That’s quite a bold statement, a quote that figures to find its way into the Buffalo Bills’ locker room. The Jets face the Bills — the No. 2 scoring offense in 2022 — on “Monday Night Football” in their season opener.
The Jets’ defense is returning eight starters from a unit that ranked No. 4 in scoring and No. 4 in yards allowed, so it’s not a stretch to think it can compete for the top spot. But Reed took it a big step further, invoking the ’85 Bears and ’13 Seahawks, both of whom redefined defense in their respective eras. Both teams wound up winning the Super Bowl.
Reed is bullish because he believes the Jets have the best defensive coordinator in Jeff Ulbrich and a smart, seasoned group, especially in the secondary. There’s also the talent — three Pro Bowl players in defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Sauce Gardner.
“S—, why not speak your goals?” said defensive end John Franklin-Myers, backing up Reed’s claim. “We’re not afraid to sit here and go out on a limb and say we want to win the Super Bowl, or we want to be the best defense in the NFL.”
Mosley, voted the defensive captain, took a more measured approach, saying it’s “a pretty big comparison” to put the Jets in the same sentence as the ’85 Bears. He said he has no problem with Reed and Franklin-Myers speaking their minds, but he emphasized that it’s a long season and they must back it up.
“When our brothers do say that, now we have to go out there and put on a show,” said Mosley, adding that he hopes by the end of the year “people are talking about how great the 2023 Jets defense was.
“I definitely feel we have all the right pieces, we have all the right coaches, the right personnel,” he continued. “We feel like we can match up with any type of offense. Those are just words right now. We have to put it to the test.”
One area that needs improvement is takeaways. For such a stout defense, the Jets were seriously lacking in that area last season with only 16 takeaways, which ranked 29th.
“That’s the most telling stat in football,” said Franklin-Myers, who expects significant improvement. “We understand that. That’s going to take us from No. 4 to No. 1.”
Reed, who was born 11 years after the ’85 Bears wreaked havoc, described himself as a fan of great defense. With regard to the Jets, he expressed a sense of urgency to win now.
“I look at it like we have a small window,” he said. “When you have a team like this, when you have a great defense, when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback, when you have a well-built roster, you have to take advantage of this because these teams don’t happen every year with cap space and guys wanting to get paid, etcetera, etcetera. So, we really have to maximize this opportunity right now.”
Franklin-Myers added, “Now it’s time to go out and show everybody. You can celebrate when you get to the finish line or you can celebrate when you cross the finish line, and that’s our plan — to celebrate when we’re holding up that trophy at the end of the year.”