Sheldon Rankins spent the first five years of his NFL career in New Orleans. In the last four seasons, his teams won the division. Rankins knows what goes into being a playoff contender.
Joining a downtrodden New York Jets squad, Rankins told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he's already a believer in the type of team coach Robert Saleh is building.
"I've watched it grow. I've watched guys get more comfortable, you know, offensively, defensively, special teams," Rankins told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. "I've watched the competition. And I've watched what he's really trying to breed, and it's something special. Everyone's buying in. Everyone's coming in every day with the mindset of, we're not just here to, 'Maybe we'll do alright this year. Maybe (not).' No, guys are coming in ready to compete and really take this league by storm. And we're hoping we can do so."
Rankins entered the NFL on a Saints defense that struggled mightily. His rookie season, New Orleans ranked 31st in points allowed and couldn't slow a bus in mud. From there, they were built into one of the best defensive clubs in the NFL, ranking in the top five in points and yards allowed last season.
The 27-year-old knows what a winner looks like, and he believes the Jets have the ingredients to turn it around. That mentality starts with messaging from Saleh.
"One thing about us, I know we're going to compete," he said. "There's never going to be a game we go into where people are going to cut that game on and be like, 'Oh, they're just there. They're just out there. They're just out there for a check.' That's never going to be a thing with us."
Rankins noted that for Gang Green to become a winner behind rookie QB Zach Wilson, his club must come out on top in close games. Keeping games close comes down to the defense getting off the field.
"This league comes down to one-possession games every week," he said. "We're going to win those one-possession games. We're a young team, I understand that. I come from a team (New Orleans) where we were in a lot of those, and we won a lot of those. So I'm able to understand what to do in certain situations that some younger guys may not be able to...we're going to compete and keep ourselves in games."
The Jets have a long way to go to compete with the upper-echelon of the AFC and within their division, but you can see the building blocks put in place. How quickly Saleh's defense goes from passive roadkill to aggressive fury will gauge whether the turnaround is one year or several in the making.