Florham Park, N.J. - Since Mike Maccagnan became the general manager of the New York Jets in January 2015, the Hightstown, New Jersey native instilled a youth movement that incorporated productive veterans with highly skilled draft picks. He knew he inherited a Jets roster that needed a facelift, as there were current players with untapped talent but also players who were not primed for the big stage.
Maccagnan's first year was a success. The 2015 NFL Executive of the Year trophy currently shines on his mantle. But, he faces a major test entering his second season as Jets GM trying to turn the 10-win team from a year ago to a playoff-caliber squad.
The previous few campaigns, New York struggled to cultivate any speed from their linebackers. David Harris is not getting any younger and Sheldon Richardson was not the answer. With DeMario Davis bolting to Cleveland, the Jets had a major hole to be filled going into the draft. This explains why Maccagnan took Darron Lee with the 20th overall pick and Jordan Jenkins at number 83.
Standing at 6'1", 232-pounds, Lee is expected to enter Todd Bowles defense with a fierce presence, speed, and athleticism, all things Maccagnan's philosophy embodies.
"He's a very fluid, smooth athlete," Maccagnan said about Lee after he drafted him. "You knew on the tape that he was a very athletic and fast linebacker."
Jenkins, 6'3", 259-pounds, compiled 205 tackles, 19 sacks, and 40 tackles for loss in his college career at Georgia.
These two young men join Harris and Lorenzo Mauldin, who had an impressive 2015 season, as players who can step in and infuse their strength and speed to an already effective Bowles' coached defense.
Both Lee and Jenkins know each other very well. The two rookies met at this year's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. They heard about each other's games and were intrigued at what they could both bring to a professional team. It just so happened that the professional team who came calling was the Jets. Once Lee and Jenkins found out they were the future of the organization, they grew closer.
"Me and [Lee] became roommates and so far we get along pretty well," said Jenkins. "We both like working, we both like competing."
The two linebackers undoubtedly represent Maccagnan's youth movement as well as the future of the organization despite contract situations still uncertain.
"I've always heard about [Jenkins], so it's cool to get to know him, and it's cool to be the future of this organization with him," said Lee.
While Jenkins reached an agreement for a contract in May, Lee remains unsigned. But, it is only a matter of time before the rookie signs with the team.
"He is fast, but he's still picking up the system," said Bowles after week two of OTAs. "He is showing instinct and speed."
A position that once seemed unfixable now has tremendous talent, depth, and upside. Lee and Jenkins are groomed defensively and have the size, strength, and speed to cover tight ends - something that has always been a major issue for New York. As for any size mismatches like a 6'6" Rob Gronkowski, Lee is not worried.
"I have no concern with any size disadvantage with tight ends," said Lee. "I have a defensive-back background, so I can bring that to the table."
*** Joe Barone is a staff writer for Jets Insider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)