DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Rex Ryan is going back to his roots.
The New York Jets coach said Saturday that he will control the play-calling on defense, as he did during his first two seasons with the team. Ryan, a defensive coordinator in Baltimore before being hired as a head coach in New York, left most of those duties to Mike Pettine the last two years.
"I just think for me, and really the football team, in our situation, we're better-served if I'm on the defensive side and making sure we've got the rules set and the way I see them set," Ryan said after the second day of rookie minicamp.
Dennis Thurman replaced Pettine as the team's defensive coordinator when Pettine took the same role with Buffalo this offseason. Ryan insisted his increased role on defense is not a reflection on Thurman, a long-time assistant.
"There's a reason four straight years people wanted him to be their coordinator and we denied it every time," Ryan said. "So, it has nothing to do with Dennis' ability."
Instead, Ryan said, it's a matter of the Jets likely having as many as seven new starters on defense, possibly including first-round picks Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson.
"I think that makes more sense with me doing that, really getting down there and getting more hands-on," Ryan said. "I did that the first several years here, but when we really never had to replace guys as much as we're going to have to, I felt I'd be in more of the head coach role, and we all know where that got us.
"So, I'm going to go back to doing what I do and that's teach and coach primarily on defense."
Ryan was criticized by some media and fans during his first few seasons for not being more involved with all aspects of the team, not just defense. He left the offense mostly to former coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but got involved a bit during Schottenheimer's last season with the Jets in 2011. With Tony Sparano as the offensive coordinator last year, Ryan again tried to be more active in the meetings.
After hiring Marty Mornhinweg in the offseason to replace Sparano, Ryan is looking to go back to focusing more on defense.
"Again, I'll be in there," Ryan said. "As I look at it, that's my offense as well, but do I have a confidence level in Marty? Absolutely. How much I can contribute, I'm not sure. Certainly, I'll be involved in it and I'll understand what's going on, but I'm going to spend much more of my time on defense."
NOTES: QB Geno Smith had another solid practice, impressing Ryan by reading the defense and calling an audible out of one running play at the line of scrimmage to another running play. "We didn't even have a checked play in, but he checked it anyway," Ryan said. "He saw it, so apparently he has some awareness." Smith was tough on himself Friday, grading himself an 'F' for his first practice despite having a pretty good session. "I'll leave the grading to the coaches," Smith said. "I think today was another good day. I got better again today." ... Ryan likes what he has seen from undrafted free agent Rontez Miles out of California University of Pennsylvania, although he isn't too fond of his Pittsburgh Steelers tattoo. "Obviously, it could be worse," Ryan said. "It could be a Patriots tattoo. We're going to have to fix that."
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