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NY Jets: Top 10 linebackers of all-time

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
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Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

For the NY Jets, who were some of the all-time greats at linebacker? Take a stroll past memory lane remembering the best of the best to ever play the position.

The Jets have a lot of memories when it comes to the many top players that played linebacker for the team. Whether they were pure tackling machines or able to get to the quarterback in a hurry, the best of the best gave fans much to cheer for on game day.

Before this list gets underway, here’s an honorable mention to linebacker Greg Buttle who spent nine seasons with the Jets between 1976-84. He was a third round pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and was one of 30 Penn State linebackers taken in the NFL Draft from 1970-84. His 15 interceptions are tied with Lance Mehl for the 4th most by a linebacker in team history, while his three postseason interceptions are a team record.

Without further adieu, here are the top 10 linebackers of all-time for the Jets.

Next: 10. An original member of a championship team

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

10. Ralph Baker – Years with Jets: 11 (1964-74)

Baker played in 142 games with the Jets in his 11 seasons, which is tied with Marvin Jones for the 4th most by a linebacker. Baker recorded 19 interceptions with the team which is third most among linebackers. Was a starter on the Super Bowl III championship team.

Next: 9. The Haitian Sensation

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

9. Jonathan Vilma – Years with Jets: 4 (2004-07)

Selected 12th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Vilma played just four seasons for the Jets, but they were very productive. Vilma was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, one of just four Jets to win the award since its inception in 1967.

In 2005, Vilma had one of the best years for a Jets linebacker, recording a career-high 124 tackles, forcing four fumbles and intercepting a pass. In recognition of his outstanding 2005 season, Vilma is one of five linebackers in team history to be named to the Pro Bowl.

Next: 8. A true ironman

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

8. Marvin Jones – Years with Jets:  11 (1993-2003)

Drafted third overall in the 1993 NFL Draft, big things were expected out of the standout linebacker from Florida St. Slowed by injuries in his first six seasons with the team, Jones missed a total of 34 games, including the entire 1998 season.

However, starting in 1999 until his final season in 2003, Jones didn’t miss a game, and his 142 games played is tied for the 4th most by a linebacker in team history with Ralph Baker. One of the best all-around linebackers in team history, Jones finished with nine forced fumbles, five interceptions and seven times recorded 69 or more tackles in his career, along with being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 5 of 2001.

Next: 7. A linebacker that continues to wreak havoc

Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace (97) tries to get past Oakland Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes (69) at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Raiders 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

7. Calvin Pace – Years with Jets: 8 (2008-15)

A free agent signed from the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, Pace has thrived as an outside linebacker for the Jets. Pace ranks 5th in team history and second for a linebacker with 46 sacks. While his 16 forced fumbles rank as the third most in team history and second most for a linebacker.

His three sacks are tied with Mo Lewis for the most by a Jets’ linebacker in postseason history.

Next: 6. Consistency was his key

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

6. Kyle Clifton – Years with Jets: 13 (1984-1996)

The model of consistency, Clifton played in 204 games for the Jets, ranking 3rd in team history and 1st for a linebacker. His 15 fumble recoveries are the second most by a Jets’ defensive player and the most by a linebacker.

Although not an “official” stat, Clifton’s 199 tackles in 1990 and 174 tackles in 1986 rank as the two highest single-season totals in team history, while his 1,468 career tackles rank 1st in team history.

Next: 5. A championship caliber linebacker

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

5. Al Atkinson –  Years with Jets: 10 (1965-74)

One of just five linebackers to be named to the Pro Bowl as a member of the Jets, Atkinson played in 120 games, tied with Calvin Pace for the 7th most at the position. He was the starting middle linebacker on the Super Bowl III championship team along with being named a 2nd team AFL All-Pro in 1968.

Atkinson’s 21 interceptions is tied for the 9th most in team history and 2nd most by a linebacker.

Next: 4. A true tackling machine

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Shane Vereen (34) is tackled by New York Jets linebacker David Harris (52) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4. David Harris – Years with Jets: 9 (2007-15)

A second round draft pick from the University of Michigan, Harris has been one of the most durable, consistent linebackers in the NFL over the past nine seasons. Harris has missed just five games since entering the NFL in 2007, and currently has played in 116 consecutive games.

One of the best all-around linebackers in team history, Harris ranks 4th in tackles, tied for 8th in sacks with 34.5 – which is the 3rd most for a linebacker – and is tied for 6th with 10 forced fumbles. Harris also was twice named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, along with being named a second team AP All-Pro in 2009.

Next: 3. An interception machine

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

3. Lance Mehl – Years with Jets:  8 (1980-87)

A third round selection in 1980, Mehl was one of the most talented linebackers to ever play for the Jets. His career was constantly interrupted by injuries that saw him play all 16 games just three times in his eight-year career.

Despite playing in just 97 games, Mehl’s 15 interceptions is tied for the 4th most by a linebacker, while his 14 sacks are the 5th most. His most memorable moment came in the 1982 AFC Divisional Round Playoffs when he intercepted Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Jim Plunkett twice in the final three minutes to send the Jets to the AFC Championship Game.

Next: 2. An original Titan roaming the field

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

2. Larry Grantham – Years with Jets: 13 (1960-72)

An original Titan, Grantham’s 175 games played is the 7th most in team history and the 3rd most among linebackers. A member of the AFL Hall of Fame, Grantham was a five-time All-Pro, while also making the Pro Bowl five times.

His 24 interceptions are the 3rd most in team history and the most for a linebacker. Grantham is also one of just seven Jets players to both return an interception and recover a fumble for a touchdown.

Next: 1. Truly the best in everything he did

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mo Lewis – Years with Jets: 13 (1991-2003)

A three-time Pro Bowler and one time All-Pro in 1998, Lewis was arguably the best all-around linebacker to play for the green and white. His 200 games played ranks 4th in team history and are the 2nd most by a linebacker behind Kyle Clifton.

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His 52.5 sacks are the 4th most in team history and the most by a linebacker. Lewis forced 26 fumbles in his career, which is the most in team history, while his 13 fumble recoveries are the 2nd most by a linebacker. His 3 postseason sacks are tied with Pace for the most in team history at the position.

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