Rex Ryan’s decision to showcase his New York Jets on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” caused plenty of attention throughout the league. His swaggering style helped mold the Baltimore Ravens into one of the league’s most feared units during his time as defensive coordinator with the club.
The colorful coach will be running into some familiar faces in an unfamiliar place Monday night when the Jets and Ravens open their seasons at the new Meadowlands Stadium.
The $1.6 billion stadium is co-owned by the Jets and Giants and officially opens Sunday when the Giants meet Carolina. But it’s this marquee matchup of contenders that has drawn more attention.
Both teams consider themselves favorites to reach the Super Bowl after each went 9-7 a year ago, earned wild-card berths and posted upsets of division champions in the first round. Baltimore then fell to Indianapolis and New York beat San Diego before losing to the Colts in the AFC championship game.
A large reason for the bravado of both clubs is Ryan, who has gained notoriety for a personality that is loved by his players and loathed by opponents.
“This is who we are,” Ryan said. “Some people are going to like us and some people are not. At the end of the day, we want to paint an accurate picture of who we are.”
The coach has left his imprint on both franchises, taking former Ravens Bart Scott(notes) and Jim Leonhard(notes) with him when he left Baltimore to join the Jets before last season. Baltimore’s defense consistently ranked among the league’s best with Ryan in charge, and New York was the best in the NFL in his first year.
That defense got a key piece back when Pro Bowl cornerback Darelle Revis ended a 36-day holdout Monday by signing a four-year contract. Ryan said Revis is about 4 or 5 pounds over his playing weight of around 198 and is working himself into football shape, but will play Monday.
“It’s great to see him back out there,” Leonhard said. “He loves the game of football and loves being with his teammates. You give him a hard time, he’s going to give it right back.”
It didn’t take long for Ryan to fire back.
“He said something about, ‘Well, there’s no excuses.’ We won’t have any excuses if they beat us. You must have us confused with somebody else. I don’t think we make any excuses.”
The presence of Revis will affect what’s expected to be an improved Baltimore passing game under third-year quarterback Joe Flacco(notes). Baltimore has added former 1,000-yard receivers Anquan Boldin(notes) and T.J. Houshmanzadeh to support a running attack that featured Ray Rice’s(notes) 1,339 yards a year ago.
“They kind of build their defense around him a little bit in the sense that they can lock him up on an island and just let him cover out there,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “What do they call that place? Revis Island? He’s a great player. I’m sure they’re thrilled to have him back, and we pretty much figured he was going to be there.”
The Ravens will be without Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed(notes) for the first six weeks due to a hip injury, with Tom Zbikowski(notes) replacing him. Baltimore’s defense will face a Jets’ rushing attack that led the NFL a year ago.
Baltimore has won the last five meetings with New York. This contest is the first of four on the road in a six-game stretch for the Ravens, who also visit Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New England.
“It’s a challenge to play them on the road, but it’s also an opportunity because if you can come out of the gates strong,” Harbaugh said. “We have an opportunity to take control of this conference, and that’s our goal.”
Ryan believes his Jets are Super Bowl-bound and he’s confident of victory Monday.
“We don’t make excuses,” Ryan said. “All we do is produce. That’s what we plan to do Monday night.”