Antonio Garay signed with the New York Jets this offseason with hopes of having an opportunity to start. Garay was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2003 draft by the Cleveland Browns, but after stints in Cleveland and with the Chicago Bears, he soon found a home with the San Diego Chargers. The 10 year veteran's stats don't exactly jump off the stat sheet, but his service with the Chargers showed some promise, especially during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Garay finally received the opportunity to start in 2010 and did not disappoint. He collected 48 combined tackles along with 5.5 sacks. The 2011 campaign was arguable his best season, during that time he tallied a combined 57 tackles and 2.2 sacks. Garay has 138 career tackles and nine sacks while playing for three different teams before finding a home with Gang Green.
The interior of the Jets defensive line is basically gone. The Green and White saw Mike Devito ink a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and the team parted ways with Sione Po'uha. DeVito and Po'uha have been the anchors of the defensive line for several seasons now, including the consecutive runs to the AFC Championship game. Garay is predicted to battle youngster Kenrick Ellis for playing time. Ellis saw limited playing time last season and finished with 18 combined tackles, but he was given an opportunity to prove himself during the final game of the season against the Buffalo Bills and finished with a season-high three tackles.
If Garay does not win the starting job he will still be on the field for a significant amount of snaps. He has the ability to play both defensive tackle and end, which gives the Jets some versatility. Garay can also be an important piece on third down because of his ability to rush the quarterback. Gang Green will have a spot on the depth chart for the hometown player.
Garay might not be a Pro Bowl defensive tackle this upcoming season, but he can be an effective member of Gang Green's defense. If the Jets elect to give him the playing time that many expect, Garay could finish the 2013 campaign with similar numbers to the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The defensive line is young and will be led by second-year lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who exploded onto the scene last year. Along with Wilkerson and Ellis, the Jets also have 2013 first round draft pick Sheldon Richardson seeking playing time. If Garay does not win the defensive tackle position, he could be switched over to defensive end since the Jets are low on experience at that position, especially with Quinton Coples switching to outside linebacker.
Garay also supplies the Green and White with leadership along with experience. Other than Garay, the Jets' defensive line does not have a player over the age of 27 and over three years of experience in professional football. Gang Green will expect Garay to teach the young guys about how to play in the NFL.
On a team filled with youth, Garay will be considered a veteran and expected to act like one. Garay is considered a prankster, as evidenced by his Hello Kitty smart car, so he will fit right into the laid back locker room of the Jets. But, he will have to turn around his luck from last season. Garay only appeared in eight games and was barely a factor for the Chargers. He finished the year with 16 tackles; his lowest margin since 2009.
Despite his limited production during the 2012 season, Garay was a good pick up for the Jets this offseason. The organization was in dire need a veteran presence on the defensive line and he gives the Jets the leadership they need. The Jets will give Garay more playing time and hope to see him return to his form from two seasons ago.