Jets Biggest Need is a Pass Rusher

The Jets were an average at best side in getting to the quarterback last year and they must add some pieces this offseason to a weak defensive line.

The Jets' biggest need is for an outside linebacker, three years after the wasted pick of Vernon Gholston. The total failure of the sixth overall pick in 2008 has had far-reaching effects on the Jets, who have tried to patch the absence of a big-time pass rusher with stopgap moves.

Gholston was moved from linebacker to defensive end last season before finally being released in March. He had zero sacks as a Jet.

Last April, they signed veteran Jason Taylor to a two-year contract. Taylor, who has a house and a charity foundation in south Florida, had wanted to return to the Dolphins, but Miami had no interest in him. Thus, he was forced to seek a deal elsewhere. He finally signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent, an odd landing spot considering that Taylor had often criticized the Jets and their fans, especially, when he was a Dolphin. But with no place else to go, he embraced the Rex Ryan defensive system and signed with the Jets.

Taylor had five sacks and made some big plays, most notably a strip sack that sealed the Jets' Week 2 victory over New England and a tackle of Pittsburgh running back Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a safety, helping the Jets to a Dec. 19 win over Pittsburgh.

But the Jets didn't really use Taylor to his best advantage, often dropping him into coverage instead of letting him rush the passer. This often had disastrous results, as he was beaten for a touchdown by Houston tight end Joel Dreessen and for a long gain by Chicago running back Matt Forte, setting up a Bears touchdown in the Jets' loss to Chicago.

The Jets released Taylor in late February, although Taylor has said he didn't want to retire and was hoping to return. Coach Rex Ryan said recently he is "not closing the book" on Taylor, implying he could be re-signed. Taylor would've made a $10 million roster bonus had he not been cut.

The Jets' other outside linebackers have been underwhelming. Bryan Thomas parlayed his career year of 8.5 sacks in 2006 into a lucrative contract extension, but has only 16 sacks in the four seasons since then.

Similarly, Calvin Pace had his best season with Arizona in 2007 with 6.5 sacks, and then signed a six-year contract with the Jets as a free agent. In his first conference call with Jets' reporters, he cautioned that he wasn't a "savior."

He wasn't kidding. Pace has averaged seven sacks in three seasons as a Jet, with his high-water mark eight quarterback takedowns in 2009. However, he did miss the first four games last season because of a fractured foot, and had only six sacks. However, he rarely beats premier opposing linemen one-on-one.

The Jets will pick 30th in the first round, and at that point in the draft, outside linebackers such as Georgia's Justin Houston and UCLA's Akeem Ayers might still be on the board. The Jets also were very interested in inside linebacker Martez Wilson at Illinois' pro day, and perhaps believe he could make the switch to outside linebacker.


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