Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Deion Barnes (18) during the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan 43-40 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
The New York Jets have put together a very talented roster this season for fans. The off season was a busy one for general manager Mike Maccagnan and company. I wrote a piece earlier about some of the offensive players that I think might surprise this summer at camp.
This time around, I’d like to talk about some of the defensive players that I expect to surprise folks this summer. The Jets are stacked at many positions defensively this year so there is plenty of talent to go around.
Yet there is some age to some of our positions and you’d really like some of these young players to step up. As I said in my last piece, the players in this article are the players I think can surprise some fans, surely there are others.
Let’s take a look.
Next: 3. Lorenzo Mauldin
May 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. Lorenzo Mauldin
Lorenzo Mauldin could surprise a lot of people this year. Generally speaking, not many people expect much out of a third round LB in his rookie season. Mauldin may surprise those that have discounted him to this point.
Mauldin played his college ball at Louisville University. Drafted by the Jets in the third round of this years draft, Mauldin stands 6’4″ and weighs in at 259 pounds. Early reports had him standing out at this year’s Jets’ rookie camp and he continued to impress throughout OTA’s and mini camp.
If Mauldin can continue to impress it will be great news for Jet fans indeed. The Jets’ outside linebacker position is aging and youth is needed. Mauldin just might be the player to solve at least part of the issue.
He is a smart football player, just watch a little film on him and you will become a fan. He has instincts that are often hard to teach. He sees the field well, and if he isn’t going to get to the QB, he is aware of the passing lanes and gets his hands up. He’s not only a pass rusher, but has the skills to get in the running lanes and shed would be blockers as well.
The thing I like about this player most is he’s not one dimensional as some of our LB’s have been in the past. His strength is rushing the passer, but he also does well in the running game. To me, here’s the kicker, he can actually drop back and play in coverage, recording 8 pass defenses while at Louisville.
It will be interesting to see what role Todd Bowles sees him in this defense. He’s a solid tackler, so expect to see him out there on special teams this year. If he can develop as quickly as I think he can, he’ll earn some serious consideration for playing time between Calvin Pace or Jason Babin.
I know I am asking a lot of a third round pick, but if he really takes off this summer, he may displace one of those two on this roster. Keep an eye on this young man, he’s come to the Jets looking to compete, and he’ll get his shot this summer. I know I’ll be watching and rooting him on. He surely could surprise many.
Next: 2. Keith Lewis
Aug 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Keith Lewis (41) intercepted the ball for Washington Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson (15) in the end zone during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2. Keith Lewis
Keith Lewis is a young man I’m really high on. My readers know I’ve done a feature on his story and later had the honor of him granting me an interview. Lewis joined the Jets in December of 2014, when he was signed to the Jets’ practice squad. He has atypical size for an NFL corner, standing 6’1″ and weighing 190 pounds. He was originally taken as an undrafted free agent after the 2014 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played through the preseason with Tampa before not making the final cut.
At the college level, Lewis played for Virginia University at Lynchburg. Lewis had trouble with his ACT scores and after leaving football, worked hard at his education and continued to promote himself. Virginia recruited him site unseen from his highlight tapes. They weren’t disappointed either, with Lewis posting 7 interceptions and taking three of those back for TD’s in his senior season.
If you watch film on this young man, the first thing you’ll notice is he thrives in man-to-man coverage, and the second thing that will likely jump out at you is his speed. Through college, Lewis consistently ran between a 4.25 and 4.37 in the 4o yard dash, and he looks faster than that on film. This young man is fast, has the size NFL defensive coordinator’s dream about and he has ball skills. Lewis is a talented young player on this roster, make no mistake.
He’ll get his chance this year. Many are counting him out, but that might be a mistake. I am really expecting Lewis to surprise many this summer. Keep an eye out for Lewis, if he can’t get into the mix at CB, he surely would make a great special teamer with that kind of speed.
Next: 1. Deion Barnes
Sep 14, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Deion Barnes (18) during the fourth quarter against the Central Florida Knights at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
1. Deion Barnes
Deion Barnes is a player I would love to see make this roster. He’s a 6’4″/255 pound defensive end out of Penn State University. The Jets currently have him listed as a LB, which is where many pro scouts had him projected at. Before I go any further, I will admit I am a bit biased when it comes to Barnes. I am a Penn State Alumni and had the pleasure to watch this young man play college throughout his career.
Many of the fans I’ve discussed Barnes with see him as a camp cut casualty, I see him in a bit of a different light. Realistically, I think he does enough to make the practice squad. Barnes doesn’t possess the athleticism many of the other LB’s do, but he’s a very smart football player.
Watch some film on Barnes and you quickly realize this player diagnoses offenses quickly, reacts well and gets to where he needs to be. He stays within his assignments and never gives up on a play. In his three years that he played at Penn State, he put up some nice numbers for a guy Jet fans seem to be dismissing.
He ended his Penn State career with 98 tackles, 46 of them coming as solo tackles. Among those tackles, Barnes produced 26.5 tackles for loss in the run game to go along with 14 sacks, 4 pass defenses and 5 forced fumbles.
Barnes may be a project, but he’s worth keeping around in my opinion. Keep a very close eye on this young man as he has skills to make it and with proper coaching, Barnes could turn some heads around camp this summer. Barnes is smart and has a great work ethic that is very coachable. He could very well surprise his critics this summer.
Next: Final thoughts
Jul 27, 2013; Cortland, NY, USA; General view of a New York Jets helmet during training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
There iare a bunch of talented young players on the Jets’ roster this year. I’m excited about the Jet youth movement as this team could use to get younger at certain positions. These are just a few of the young talent I’ll be watching this summer.
Surely my readers have players they think will surprise this summer. The Jet Press would love to hear about your choices that you think might have a chance to impress so please, leave us a comment and Let’s Talk Jet Football!!