The New York Jets have officially claimed former Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Jordan Willis off waivers. Here is what to expect from the team’s newest player.
The New York Jets were dealt a severe blow on Wednesday when it was announced that wide receiver Quincy Enunwa would undergo neck surgery and be placed on the injured reserve thus ending his season. But in his place, the Jets used his roster spot to claim Jordan Willis off waivers.
This is devastating for Enunwa as the former sixth-round pick had come back last season and played well after missing all of the 2017 season with a similar neck injury. The Nebraska product battled through injuries last season but looked to be at full health for the 2019 campaign.
Now, not only will he miss essentially an entire season for the second time in three years, but there could even be doubts about his NFL future.
But in the face of tragedy, sometimes opportunities arise. And that’s exactly what has happened with the aforementioned Willis.
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A former third-round pick back in 2017, Willis spent two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals playing primarily as a reserve edge rusher. Prior to that, Willis excelled at Kansas State emerging as a true breakout candidate during his senior season.
That season, Willis finished with 11.5 sacks and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year. After a standout performance at the Senior Bowl, Willis saw his draft stock skyrocket with some even projecting him as a first-rounder at the time.
Ultimately, the Bengals would snag him in the third round, but his NFL career would see a massive drop-off in production. For starters, the Bengals asked him to add on about 30 pounds from his meager 245-pound frame in college to around 275.
This may have hurt his explosiveness in the pros as Willis only managed two sacks over his 32 games played in Cincinnati. While he showed promise as a run defender with his new weight, he was ultimately buried on the depth chart leading up to his ultimate release.
But with the Jets, Willis could have the opportunity to unlock some of his untapped potential.
Willis will likely be asked to play in a stand-up outside linebacker role with the team, a role he didn’t play in Cincinnati or while at Kansas State. But such a role switch could see him drop some of the weight he added on in the NFL.
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Typically significant weight changes like that are done over a gradual process in the offseason but we could see such a change slowly happen over the course of the remainder of the season. And with the team’s lack of depth at edge rusher, they need all the help they could get.
Harvey Langi received the start opposite Jordan Jenkins at edge rusher while backups Frankie Luvu and Tarell Basham each saw action on Sunday. But the Jets could certainly use some help while Brandon Copeland is out serving his suspension.
Willis could be just the help they were looking for.
Enunwa’s injury his tragic for the player and team alike. But as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens.