Rex Ryan on Alex Smith: “I was hoping he wasn’t as good as he is.”

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan spoke to Bay Area reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning. He talked about the key players on the 49ers’ offense, the seven blue-chip players on the 49ers’ defense and the how the Jets’ defense will adjust to the loss of Darrelle Revis.

The transcript.

Q: Donte Whitner said the key for him in facing the Jets offense is keeping an eye on Santonio Holmes. What’s the opposite for you guys when you’re on defense? Who do you need to keep an eye on in the 49ers offense?

RYAN: I think it’s a long list. There’s no question, because if you’re not looking at Vernon Davis – the guy runs a 4.3. He’s the best tight end, No.1 tight end in football in my opinion. You’ve got that Gronkowski kid, but this guy is a 4.3-speed guy.

How is it not Frank Gore? He’s had more 100-yard performances in the league with 30 since 2005. It’s hard not to make him your No.1 priority.

You have Alex Smith who does a tremendous job back there. And then you have Crabtree and all those guys. There are a ton of weapons. You almost have a 1, a 1a, a 1b and a 1c.

And quite honestly, it all starts upfront. They have two Pro Bowl offensive linemen and a kid that’s going to be in Anthony Davis. I think that’s a heck of a group. I had the pleasure of working with Greg Roman a couple years in Baltimore, him and Vic Fangio, and both those guys are outstanding coaches.

Q: You mentioned Anthony Davis. Has he jumped out at you in the first three games?

RYAN: Oh yeah, no doubt. In my opinion he’s one of the premiere right tackles in the game. You’ve got a guy who’s got all the athleticism that you look for. A power player. He finishes. He’s good in pass protection. A tremendous athlete. I think he’s got all the tools.

Q: The 49ers offense hasn’t thrown down the field very much this year. Do you think they have that capability?

RYAN: Definitely. Any team that has Ted Ginn, Manningham, Randy Moss, oh and by the way Crabtree, and you have the most explosive tight end in football, yeah you can throw the ball down the field. I think people have been smart, they’re like: “Hey look, let’s not give them those throws down the field. Make them throw it underneath. You’d rather give up a single than a home run.” Maybe that’s been the opinion of a lot of people. Clearly they have the talent to go down the field.

Q: Does that seem like a smart way to handle their offense?

RYAN: I have no idea. I hope they get small yardage in the running game. The No.1 priority any time you play San Francisco is you better be able to stop the run. I think that’s something where they do a tremendous job. It’s funny because I guess the national opinion of Alex Smith is he’s a game manager, but he’s much more than that. He’s much more talented than he gets credit for nationally. He can make all the throws and he’s accurate and obviously he’s got mobility in the pocket as well. I was really looking at him and I was hoping he wasn’t as good as he is.

Q: You talked a lot about the 49ers offense, what about their defense?

RYAN: Yikes. When you look at their players, we have a grading system, and I looked and I said, “Is this right?” They have seven blue players, and what that means is those are Pro Bowl or All Pro players. Seven of them on one defense, and then they’ve got a blue coach in Vic Fangio. I was like, “Whoa!” This is going to be tough. I think it starts with those two inside linebackers, Bowman and Willis. Everybody’s got to be disappointed in Bowman’s play last week – he only had the 18 tackles. And then you look at Aldon Smith and Brooks rushing the passer. And Justin Smith – you guys know how good he is. He might be the best interior defensive lineman in football right now. Certainly he’s tremendous. And Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers – Pro Bowl guys. And Whitner, of course. It’s a loaded group. Phenomenal defense and it’s extremely well-coached. Obviously it’s going to be a major challenge going against these guys.

Q: Going back to the 49ers deep threats – are you expecting them and other teams to take those deep shots not that Revis is out?

RYAN: I think that’s kind of risk/reward as well. We have guys that clearly can play the football. Cromartie is a No.1 corner anyway. I think Kyle (Wilson) does a tremendous job for us as well. This is the time when people will start noticing him a little bit. That’s it. Sometimes you’re able to get pressure on the quarterback if they want to throw vertical. Certainly that’s a possibility, but I think we’ll be better for it.

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