Jets hope B.T. Express starts rolling

So much has been made of the Jets current personnel adapting to Eric Mangini's 3-4 defensive scheme.

Guys like Jonathan Vilma and Dwayne Robertson, considered terrific football players, perhaps don't have the physical attributes to be ideal fits in the Jets current philosophy and have struggled with consistency.

During Mangini's rookie season in 2006, one player that drew high praise for adapting to the 3-4 was Bryan Thomas.

Selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Herman Edwards regime, Thomas was envisioned to be a defensive end in the 4-3. However, he didn't see much game action early in his career as he was playing behind standout John Abraham.

Although Thomas was progressing nicely as a defensive end, Mangini had other idea for the 6'4 270 pound product of Alabama-Birmingham.

Mangini saw Thomas's rare combination of size and speed as a better fit for the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 than he did a defensive end in the 4-3. Although he will occasionally line up as an end, Thomas made the shift seamlessly a year ago and seemed to flourish in his new role.

He recorded 8.5 sacks, Thomas enjoyed a breakout season in 2006. Needless to say, the bar was set relatively high for the linebacker convert entering this season, and thus far he has not played up to the level of anticipation.

"I can't really say what isn't going right," Thomas said in regards to the Jets recent defensive struggles. "I can speak for myself and say that I have to go out there, work harder, be more productive and go out there and take care of business. I take a lot of that responsibility, but as far as anyone else in this locker room, I can't speak for them."

Through five games, Thomas is averaging just shy of four tackles per game, nearly identical to his average of a year ago, but he has struggled to find the quarterback, and is yet to record a sack. An issue that he doesn't seem overly concerned with.

"The main thing is going out there and being victorious," Thomas said in regards to his sacking dry spell. "Individual accolades come as they are. The main thing is trying to be successful on the field as a team."

What should concern Thomas is that a Jets defense that ranked sixth in the league in points allowed a year ago, now ranks twenty-ninth, and a major contributor to the recent struggles has been the team's lack of a pass-rush.

Given sufficient time, all secondary's will eventually break down. Thus far, the Jets are yet to show a consistent pass-rush capable of disrupting an offense and have paid a price because of it. If the team hopes to turnaround the 2007 campaign, their ability to find one will play a major factor.

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