New York Jets: Intriguing LB prospects in UDFA class

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I was sitting in the back yard looking over the linebacker position for the New York Jets on my laptop and found some interesting prospects in the UDFA class. The weather was just too nice to sit in the office and these prospects deserved a second look. So today I come to you from my favorite lawn chair alongside the fish pond.

I want to briefly look at three of the Jets UDFA’s. They may only develop into special teamers, or they may not even make the roster this summer, nothing is certain of course. They are intriguing prospects however, opportunities exist at linebacker for the Jets going forward, and these three have a chance to compete.

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Deion Barnes is a 6’4″/255 lbs. outside linebacker coming out of Penn State University. Barnes is an athletic kid, he’s not your fastest linebacking prospect, but he plays smart football. I’m likely a bit biased when it comes to Barnes, as I’m a Penn State Alumni. I did watch this player develop at Penn State the past three years however, and I’ve been impressed.

He hurt himself by coming out early for this year’s draft. Another year at the college level might have changed his draft stock significantly. If Barnes can continue to develop and show well this summer, he may very well grab a spot either on the roster or the practice squad. The potential is there for the Jets coaching staff to work with.

Julian Howsare comes to the Jets as a 6’3″/255 lbs. linebacker out of small school Division II Clarion. Here’s a young player who dominated at the small school level, but it’s hard to determine how much of that he can bring at the next level. He played defensive end in college but will likely convert to outside linebacker in the NFL.

Howsare is fast and athletic, he shows well in coverage and has played special teams throughout his collegiate career. Howsare will be competing for a special teams spot this summer and with his prior experience, I like his chances.

Taiwan Jones is a 6’3″/252 lbs. linebacker coming to the Jets from Michigan State. Initially projected as a fourth or fifth rounder, Jones was apparently snubbed for skipping the Senior Bowl. The Jets may have stolen one here. Jones is NFL size for an inside linebacker as he has good arm length and upper body strength to go along with being a hard smash-mouth hitter. Jones has the potential to be a starter down the line if he can continue to develop his game.

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets’ linebacker position is a fluid one. David Harris and Demario Davis will likely lead the group, while exactly where Quinton Coples, Erin Henderson, Jamari Lattimore, Joe Mays, Calvin Pace, and Jason Babin fit into future plans is anyone’s’ guess. There is plenty of talent to go around at this highly competitive position. The Jets also have Trevor Reilly returning for his second year with the club and third round pick Lorenzo Mauldin looking to make his mark in his rookie campaign.

For me this will be a key position to watch unfold this summer. With many of these players being aging veterans, it would be nice if some of the young talent could step up. If the Jets are able to cut some of these veterans this summer, it might just aid them in finding the money to finally get a deal done with Muhammad Wilkerson.

How do you see the position playing out? Any thoughts on all the linebacker acquisitions this offseason? Who is your favorite to displace a veteran? We want to know what you’re thinking so please leave some comments below and let’s talk Jet football!

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