Rebuilt linebacker corps a reason for hope
The New York Jets will face many obstacles in 2016, but fans still have reasons to be optimistic. Mainly due to an influx of young linebackers ready to make an impact.
From the agonizing end to last season, to a continued contractual standoff with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, to a brutal upcoming schedule, there are once again plenty of reasons for fans of the New York Jets to be discouraged heading into the 2016 season.
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But perhaps Jets fans would like to take a break from all of the negativity. Maybe, just maybe, they would like to go a day without wondering who is going to play quarterback. Maybe they don’t want to remember that it has been five seasons since the Jets have made the NFL Playoffs.
And given a tough schedule that pits the Jets against the New England Patriots (twice), Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, it’s unlikely the playoff drought will be broken in 2016.
When it comes to the Jets, its disturbingly easy to get sucked into a negative downward spiral. In spite of all the negative headlines and noise however, there are many parts of this current team that fans should be excited about. For instance, let’s consider the linebacker position.
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Last season, Jets had a solid defense, finishing in the top 10 in points allowed.
While the team had a respectable pass rush (39 sacks), a significant portion of that production came from defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (12 sacks).
In particular, the Jets’ linebackers were aging, plodding and unable to rush the passer.
Out of their regular starters, not a single linebacker posted even five sacks.
Looking forward to the 2016 season however, there’s a good chance that multiple Jets’ linebackers could eclipse the five sack mark.
Talented young pass rusher Lorenzo Mauldin amassed four sacks in limited playing time; as his role increases, so should his production.
Additionally, the Jets utilized two of their top three picks in this year’s draft on linebackers (Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins). Lee in particular, should have the speed and athleticism to make an immediate impact.
The greatest dark horse, and potentially the most exciting of the Jets’ new acquisitions is Freddie Bishop. Bishop is a former CFL star who racked up 11 sacks with the Calgary Stampeders in 2015. If he can follow the path of linebacker Cameron Wake and adjust his game to the NFL, the Jets may have found an amazing sleeper.
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If you’re a Jets fan, there’s always going to be plenty of reasons to be negative. But thanks to a new commitment to youth and speed at linebacker, the Jets will have at least a few bright spots in 2016.