Coming off a season in which the Jets defense finished No. 7 overall and No. 2 against the run, LB Neville Hewitt believes the unit can be one of the NFL's best in 2020.
"Everybody has to buy in, not look too far ahead and take every team seriously," Hewitt said. "Treat every game as if it's the championship game and get as many wins as we possibly can to get to the dance. For this defense, it always starts with stopping the run and then stopping people on third down. To be one of the top five defenses on third down and stopping the run, I think that's going to give us a great chance of getting to where we want to go."
Hewitt said the defense set the standard last season under coordinator Gregg Williams and they are now raising the bar. Their group hasn't had a lot of turnover — the only opening-day starters not returning are CBs Trumaine Johnson, who was placed on Injured Reserve in November, and Darryl Roberts, who started 10 games in 2019 — and All-Pro LB C.J. Mosley, who missed 14 games last season due to a core-muscle injury, is set to return. Despite the unprecedented offseason, the continuity on defense will help the group play faster entering their second season under Williams' tutelage.
"I think for a lot of us, it's going to make the game a lot slower and we can clean up the small details, the stuff we made a lot of mistakes on," Hewitt said. "We have a good understanding of the defense and we can really detail our work. For the new guys that are coming along, we can help the coaches teach these new guys and help them understand it the way we do. I think that's a plus for a lot of us being in this program for the second year."
For the new faces on defense like veteran CBs Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson as well as rookies S Ashtyn Davis, DL Jabari Zuniga and CB Bryce Hall, Hewitt believes the downside of the virtual offseason is not being able to build relationships with new teammates in the flesh.
"Once we get on the field, we expect everyone to know the plays, but in the first few days, you might see something and you might not say it because you don't know his name," he said. "That's the challenges. It's new faces on every team. You might really understand what you need to tell him, but you do not know this guy's name because he's a new face. Not having an offseason and OTAs and stuff, it sets everything back.
"You don't get the opportunity to really see the guys in the locker room and build a relationship or be on the field or in the gym getting to learn somebody's name, see their vibe, how you can talk to them and learn how to speak to somebody. You can't speak to everybody the same way. Some people take some things differently than others. That's the challenging part."