NY Jets: Lorenzo Mauldin has bright future
The NY Jets fielded a top defense in 2015 thanks to everyone stepping up. Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin had a solid rookie year as his future is bright with Gang Green.
His rookie year stats won’t pop like Luke Kuechly or Von Miller‘s did in their rookie seasons, but Lorenzo Mauldin will be a crucial piece to the Jets’ defense in coming years.
The third-round pick out of Louisville only had 13 tackles and four sacks, but ranked fourth on the team in dropping opposing quarterbacks for a loss. Only Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and David Harris got to the quarterback more times.
Harris is the leader of the Jets’ linebacker corps, but even the “Hitman” only finished with 4.5 sacks. Mauldin had fewer time on the field and didn’t get a large amount of playing time until the Jets’ Week 12 win over Miami. Mauldin had to go through the learning curve that all rookies go through, but his hard-nosed play on defense added a much-needed dynamic to the Jets’ linebackers.
The Jets haven’t had a dominant linebacker corps since arguably, Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones anchored the second level of the Gang Green defense. Jonathan Vilma and Harris would’ve made a nice tandem, but Vilma’s 2007 season – Harris’ rookie season – was cut short by a knee injury, and Harris was Vilma’s replacement.
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In his final two seasons at Louisville, Mauldin strived in the pass rush. In both seasons combined, he registered 16 sacks for the Cardinals.
He’s also had a full season to learn head coach Todd Bowles‘ system and has plenty of mentors in Harris, Calvin Pace and Demario Davis.
Mauldin’s rookie season is similar to Calvin Pryor‘s, ironically, also from Louisville.
Pryor didn’t have much to show for his rookie season in 2014, but had 15 more tackles and recorded his first two interceptions of his career this season. It wasn’t reported until December that Mauldin had found his rhythm with the Jets.
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Adding a second-level pass rusher will be crucial for the Jets, who could lose both Wilkerson and Damon Harrison to free agency this offseason. His speed and physicality contrast Harris’ ability to get to the ball carrier.
It also gives the Jets a solid option in the nickel and dime defenses against quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill and the elusive Tyrod Taylor in the AFC East.
Maudin might not have been the top rookie linebacker in 2016, but he’s certainly going to be someone to watch on the Jets’ defense thanks to his potential to be a key contributor down the road.