Jonathan Vilma has heard the talk about how he is a 3-4 linebacker, but is a much better fit in the 4-3. He doesn't believe that.
"If you utilize a person's strengths within either system," Vilma said, "the 3-4 or the 4-3, then he's going to be productive."
Vilma again will have a chance to prove that this season as he enters his second year in the 3-4. He made one tackle in very limited action in the Jets' 31-16 win over the Falcons in the preseason opener for both teams.
Vilma's numbers dropped from 187 tackles in 2005, when the Jets were using the 4-3 under then-coach Herm Edwards, to 116 in 2006 in the first year of coach Eric Mangini and the 3-4. His impact plays also decreased, as Vilma had one interception and one fumble recovery in both seasons, but went from four forced fumbles in 2005 to none in 2006.
"You can't really gauge yourself from one system to the other," the Jets' inside linebacker said. "It's two totally different animals. I gauge myself as it's my second year in this system."
As the middle linebacker in the 4-3, Vilma had the freedom to roam sideline-to-sideline, making plays. As an inside linebacker in the 3-4, he had to stay at home more and fend off more blockers. But he should be helped by the fact that nose tackle Dewayne Robertson, who also didn't have the easiest adjustment to the 3-4, improved markedly as the 2006 season went on and should be able to handle more of those blockers before they get to Vilma.
But both Robertson and Vilma were blocked perfectly on Jerious Norwood's 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
"You look at yourself and you can see yourself doing better and you know that you want to do better," Vilma said before the game, "but it's just a matter of time. There's really nothing you can do about it. It's just something that's going to come, and you have to keep working at it and working at it. You're not going to get it right the first time. You're not going to be perfect the first go-round, so it's just something that you have to live through and deal with."
Vilma added that once "we start getting into the season, by that time, of course I'll be better than I was last year simply because we're a year into it."
Mangini also has steadfastly maintained that Vilma can be a good fit in the 3-4.
"He's been excellent," Mangini said of Vilma's work both in the offseason and in camp, "and we've put in quite a bit more (in the playbook) here early on in camp than last year. Jon is able to see it and then also add some of the nuances that we had. His recall is outstanding."
Mangini also believes that a quality linebacker can be successful in any system.
"I've seen a lot of different linebacker types playing the system over the years," he said, "and they've all played at a good level. It's not that there's only one way to necessarily play it. It develops and you figure out the best way for you to get those jobs done. Tedy Bruschi played it very differently than Ted Johnson did, than Roman Phifer did, then Junior Seau does. It's the same system (and) it's the same responsibilities, but each guy caters it to the things they do well."
ROOKIE REPORT: First-round CB Darrelle Revis still is unsigned. He wants a five-year contract. The Jets would prefer a six-year deal and both sides continue to be dug in deeply. ... Second-round ILB David Harris is playing inside on the reserve units and doesn't seem to be a threat to the starting spot of incumbent ILB Eric Barton, who had a terrific game against Atlanta. ... Sixth-round OL Jacob Bender is working with the reserve units and has had his ups and downs. He got extensive time at right tackle with the second unit against Atlanta. ... Seventh-rounder Stuckey has shown good hands and the ability to run precise routes while working with the second unit. He had four receptions, including a touchdown, against the Falcons.
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