Jets have reason for optimism

Regardless of whether Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez starts at QB, the Jets could take a step forward. Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that this season represents a crossroads for the New York Jets. Rex Ryan was hired in 2009, the same year the Jets moved up to draft Mark Sanchez at No. 5, and the pair had immediate success, taking the team to two straight AFC Championship Games. But this could be the last season for both of them in New York.

After an uninspiring 6-10 record in 2012, including three straight bad losses to end the season, most Jets fans think this year will bring more of the same. And while I'm not saying the Jets will contend for a Super Bowl this season, I believe there are a few reasons for hope in New York in 2013.

A strong defense

Ryan is a good head coach, but what he does best is coach up the defense. And he knows that. Lost in all of the noise surrounding this team last year with the Sanchez and Tim Tebow QB battle was that the defense was quietly very good -- even without Darrelle Revis. The Jets ranked sixth in total defense, the lowest defensive rank they've had in Ryan's four years in New York.