The New York Jets have a grading system for each of their opponents as they game-plan during the week. They reserve “blue level” distinctions for players who perform at the All-Pro or Pro Bowl levels and on Wednesday Rex Ryan told Bay Area reporters that the 49ers possess seven blue level players in their starting 11.
Asked to describe the challenge of hosting the 49ers defense at home on Sunday, the Jets coach simply said, “Yikes.”
The long-winded and loquacious Ryan didn’t stop there, though, as he soon complimented the blue-level leader of the 49ers defense.
“First off, I’ve got to give a major shout out to Vic Fangio,” Ryan said of his former fellow coach on the Baltimore Ravens staff. “What a tremendous coach and his dedication and everything else. When I look at guys that I truly respect in this game, he’s one of those guys.”
Once Ryan started discussing the 49ers offense, he really got going. Not only did he call Vernon Davis the best tight end in football, but he also had strong words of praise for Frank Gore, Alex Smith and third-year right tackle Anthony Davis, whom he labeled a future Pro Bowler.
“In my opinion he’s one of the premier right tackles in the game,” Ryan said. “You’ve got a guy who’s got all the athleticism that you look for in a power player. He finishes, he’s good at pass protection and he’s a tremendous athlete. I think he’s got all the tools.”
Ryan also shared the story of how he confused Smith with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the NFL Honors show in February. Ryan had never met Smith or Rodgers before, so he went up to the San Francisco signal-caller and started addressing him as Aaron. The humble Smith didn’t correct Ryan during the brief conversation, but the two eventually smoothed things out.
“The next day I saw Alex at a different function and I apologized to him,” Ryan said. “We laughed about that.”
But Ryan clearly knows who No. 11 on the 49ers is now.
“He’s much more talented than I think the national perspective gives him credit for,” Ryan said. “He can make all the throws, he’s accurate and obviously he’s got mobility in the pocket as well.”
As for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, he’s more concerned with the 49ers defense. Sanchez said it will be key to keep turnovers to a minimum when facing the disruptive San Francisco defense, and that long drives are the best way to get points since the 49ers rarely give up big plays.
“It’s a stout group,” Sanchez said. “But I’m confident in our scheme and we’ll hit our stride here soon enough. It’s a good challenge for us.”
Sanchez also discussed his long-standing friendship with Jets tight end Konrad Reuland, who was signed from San Francisco shortly after the 49ers made their final round of roster cuts before the season.
Sanchez and Reuland grew up together in Southern California, so they were happy to reconnect in the Big Apple this season. Reuland, the former Stanford star, made his NFL debut in Week 1 and has four catches for 32 yards this season in place of starting tight end Dustin Keller, who is trying to return from an injured hamstring.
“He’s doing a heck of a job,” Sanchez said of Reuland. “He’s learned everything quickly and he’s a great teammate. We grew up playing travel basketball together so he’s a good friend of mine and I know his family really well. We couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”
Tags: Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
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