Florham Park, N.J. – Does the departure of Damon Harrison hurt? Yes. Does it hurt even more that he’s still playing at the same home stadium, only to be wearing different colors? Absolutely. Even with big shoes to fill, Steve McLendon has overcome plenty in his career to not worry about this.
McLendon went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft out of Troy but was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers shortly after. In that first year with the Steelers, he was waived by the team or released from their practice squad five different times. Yet, McLendon always found his way back into black and gold.
In his first game in 2010, McLendon recovered a fumble and made one tackle. He was waived two days later, but shortly made it back to the team. There was constant back and forth on being on a roster and then not being on one to start his career. That sort of uncertainty takes a mental toll on a player. Not McLendon.
Since his debut in 2010, McLendon played in 83 games and playoff games, including 34 starts. In that time, he totaled 58 tackles, 9.5 for loss, five sacks, and eight QB hits. Notable sacks include against Michael Vick, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton, who the Jets see week one.
Yes, McLendon’s tackle numbers aren’t as great as Harrison’s, but his ability to get to the signal-caller is just as good. He’s versatile, as he has some experience playing defensive end. His primary role will most likely be focusing on the run stop.
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McLendon joins a star-studded defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, and Jarvis Jenkins. The additions of Jenkins and McLendon are playing pivotal roles in the locker room. “I think they help the young guys tremendously,” said defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. “They can handle anything that is thrown at them as far as our defensive scheme goes.”