It’s late August. A time of the year when panic sets in for teams who are not progressing in efficiency with the first unit through their preseason schedule.
Putting aside one’s belief on the importance of games that may get cut in half by 2012 if the NFL goes to an 18 game regualr season schedule, one element is certain. Stay healthy. For the Jets, with one game left before attention turns to Baltimore and the opener, the loss of Calvin Pace, the teams best pass rusher, puts an already compromised defense in another quandry.
Pace, whose outside blitzes from the hybrid position of OLB and DE has been one of the only sources of pressure without Rex Ryan calling on the secondary in blitz packages, injured his foot on Friday night vs Washington. What does this mean? Perhaps there will be a reuniting of Ryan and foprmer player LB Adelius Thomas, cut by the Pats this Summer. Thomas has expressed interest in joining the Jets and with Pace out for at least the first four games which include Tom Brady and the Dolphins with Brandon Marshall and a healthy Ronnie Brown returning form a season ending injury in 2009, the Jets can’t slip from the solid production that Pace brought: Reports today have painted the Jets as NOT interested until Thomas until after week one. If this is true, the Jets clearly want to see what Jason Taylor and Vernon Gholston can do prior to going outside of the organization.
The newly acquired Taylor appears out of shape and perhaps not ready for a majority of the snaps just yet. Even if Taylor gets his wind back, questions still remain as to whether he can he still wreak top flight havoc in enemy backfields at the age of 35. This brings us to third year Jet, the former 6th pick overall in 2008,Vernon Gholston. Gholston struggled his first two years but was shrewdly moved from LB to DE by defensive genius Ryan and the move has shown signs of serious life. Gholston has had a great camp. One that included solid play against Carolina and pressures on Skins QB Rex Grossman in the first half. Due to both the injury of Pace, and the durability and remaining ability left regarding Taylor, the emergence of Gholston has now gone from a project under development, to under the microscope, requiring immediate results.
A dangerous scenario awaits the Jets should quarterbacks have time to throw while receivers make moves without all world cover CB Revis on their tail. Pace, while not a prototype pass rusher, gave the Jets just enough last year to get by in that department. NG Kris Jenkins is back and his addition back on the line will undoubtedly help Jets ends receive less attention.
Nonetheless, the spotlight shines both on Taylor, given his terrific resume, and Gholston. Should Gholston continue to make plays as he has so far this Summer, the Jets may be able to survive the first quarter of a season that looks to be no easy task. With a tough schedule, a Jets offense under development, led by a second year quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and now the loss of Pace, the Jets all of a sudden need Gholston to emerge. Now. Many who make up Jets nation, for the first time, feel he may finally be ready to do so.
Follow TJ Rosenthal on twitter @thejetreport