CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets began the 2014 season the same way they ended the 2013 campaign: bubbling with optimism.
Of course, the first day of training camp is an ebullient one throughout the NFL. But even by those standards, the Jets are off to an enthusiastic start.
The Jets reported to camp in upstate New York on Wednesday, and coach Rex Ryan told reporters every player passed the conditioning test -- the first time Ryan saw that in his NFL coaching career.
Hours later, Ryan delivered an impassioned speech to the players.
"He just flipped the switch five minutes into the talk," rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "You could just feel the fire burning inside the guys. He made me want to run through a brick wall."
Nobody ran through a brick wall during the opening practice Thursday, but Ryan still saw enough good things during the workout to declare afterward the Jets were "a zillion miles ahead of where we were at this time last year."
Ryan acknowledged a lot of that is a byproduct of having a relatively entrenched starting quarterback (Geno Smith) working in the same system as a year ago. Last year, Mark Sanchez was hanging on to his job by a fingernail while learning Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
However, Ryan said the progress wasn't just limited to the offense. Indeed, he sounded like a man almost disappointed the regular-season kickoff remains 45 days away.
"This is kind of the team that I want," Ryan said, "It's not just me pumping it out and sending the message out there. It's each other. They're pushing each other. Their communication is phenomenal on both sides of the ball, and it's just great to see.
"I'm telling you, we are so much further along than I can remember (at) anytime (during) this time of year. We're further along with this team than I have been with any other team."
If there is one thing Ryan knows how to do -- not counting his often outrageous oral rants -- it is to wring value out of pass rushers. With that in mind, the Jets added more depth by agreeing to terms Thursday with former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin on a two-year deal.
Babin turned 34 in May, but he led the Jaguars last season with 7.5 sacks. He has 62.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons.
With outside linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee) still working his way back from last October's ACL surgery, Babin should team up with outside linebacker Calvin Pace -- who racked up a career-high 10 sacks as a 33-year-old last season -- to provide the Jets with another weapon off the edge.
"You can't have enough pass rushers," Ryan said Thursday. "(Babin) is a relentless guy, (has) a phenomenal motor and obviously he has got a history of being able to get to the quarterback."
The Jets will be the seventh team for Babin, who was drafted by the Houston Texans in the first round in 2004.