The New York Jets upgraded their linebacker corps tremendously this offseason. They will finally get much more production out of the positional group and have a solid overall pass rush.
This positional group over the years has been a drag and the New York Jets haven’t been helped by draft busts and limited veterans attempting to hold down the fort. Fans of the Jets love linebacker Calvin Pace as he’s a veteran leader for this ball club, but his ceiling was low.
The Jets knew that they had deficiencies at the position, so they finally decided to act on them. Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was added last year in the third round and linebacker Jordan Jenkins was added in this year’s draft.
With that being said, the Jets’ linebacker corps looks to be very different in 2016. The Jets will undoubtedly have three new starters ready to usher in a new era.
David Harris will be the only returning starter; Quinton Coples was released mid-season, the Jets let Demario Davis walk in free agency, and the aforementioned Pace remains unsigned although the door for his return hasn’t been shut completely.
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Erin Henderson saw his role increase as the season wore on and is currently listed as the other starting inside linebacker, for now.
Hot on his heels is first round selection Darron Lee out of Ohio State.
Moving to the outside linebacker corps for the Jets, it’s all about youth and aggression for a position that needed an overhaul.
On how he views the outside linebacker position…
(There is) a lot of youth and a lot of inexperience. They have a lot of things to learn and a little bit of time (to do it). (They) have a lot of talent but nothing takes the place of experience, so they have a lot of work to do.
One of those players who has a lot to learn will be the surprise starter on opening day against the Cincinnati Bengals, Freddie Bishop. Here is what Bowles had to say about him:
On comparing the number of sacks Freddie Bishop had under CFL rules to the NFL…
I don’t know that you compare the number, but 11 sacks is 11 sacks. I was in Miami when Cameron Wake got there and we took him from Canada. Sometimes it takes guys time to develop and you can develop over there and come back over here and be good players or can develop over there and have a career over there. We saw some things in Freddie, not just the sacks, but as far as him playing the position and knowing how to play the position that made him appealing to us and made us want to sign him.
It’s time to buy into the hype of Bishop as a Cameron Wake kind of CFL talent. Bishop has the production (12 sacks including playoffs) even with a disadvantage.
“The CFL, it’s a lot of fun,’’ said Bishop, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound outside linebacker who played collegiately at Western Michigan. “It’s a different game of ball up there, things are a little different, it’s a little faster game. I’m happy to be back down here, I’m happy to get that yard back.’’ (via Colin Stephenson, special to ESPN.com)
Yes, that disadvantage that is being referred to is the CFL rule for defensive players. Which makes it a lot more difficult to get off the line and get sacks.
“Up there, you’ve got to be a yard off the ball, so that hinders a defensive lineman, especially a pass-rusher,’’ the 26-year-old explained. “So being back down here, it’s good to get that edge back and kind of even up the playing field.’’ (via Colin Stephenson, Special to ESPN.com)
He got 12 sacks with a disadvantage? Sign the Jets up and buy into the hype of the Canadian sensation. While most assume he’ll contribute as a situational pass rusher, he’s got a higher ceiling than that.
Watch out for Bishop as he makes an impact immediately in the NFL this upcoming season. It couldn’t have come at a better time for a team in dire need of pure pass rushers.
Overall, to make a final prediction as to who will be the starting linebackers for the Jets in 2016, at inside linebacker, expect to see Harris and Lee on top. At outside linebacker, Mauldin and Bishop will wreak havoc against opposing offenses thanks to their speed and aggression.