The New York Jets have a rookie middle linebacker turning heads and getting everyone’s attention. Before you rush off to the comment section to give your opinion on Darron Lee’s late signing, allow me to have your attention for a few more sentences.
Since the first day of camp, Jordan Jenkins has had the Gang Green coaching staff talking enough that he has already been written in as the week one starter at outside linebacker. While Lee is behind both Erin Henderson and David Harris at this point for the inside linebacker spot, 2014 seventh round pick, Trevor Reilly is the only man who has really given Jenkins any competition.
At 6’3” and 247 pounds, Jenkins was the third round pick out of the University of Georgia for the Jets. He brings both power and speed that are almost as valuable as his ability to both process and apply information on the field within a matter of seconds. The only thing that got in the way of his pass rushing abilities his senior year with the Bulldogs was his own versatility, which led to him being asked to handle all of the dirty work at defensive end, giving Leonard Floyd the opportunity to run free and chase down quarterbacks. The willingness to put the team first by Jenkins didn’t go unnoticed. Jenkins was named both defensive co-captain and defensive MVP his senior year.
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Two of the biggest struggles the Jets defense had during the 2015 season were their abilities to cover running backs and tight ends when an opposing offense went to the air. With Jenkins playing at outside linebacker in New York’s 3-4 defense, these two areas of difficulty should no longer be a setback for the Jets. He will also finally be given the opportunity to show the damage he can create being able to play in space and rush the outside edge.
Second year man Lorenzo Mauldin is expected to be paired up with Jenkins, taking over the full time starter position at the opposite outside linebacker spot. The youth at the position brings concern to some of the New York faithful, but keep in mind that during his 224 plays as a situational pass rusher last season, Mauldin was able to rack up 17 tackles, four sacks, and create a forced fumble, as well as recovering another.
The defensive future could look brighter than ever with the two young men playing outside. While some are already thinking it will be either do or die, the defensive coaching staff is confident in the abilities of the duo. If for some reason that feeling begins to disappear in the early going, Calvin Pace has made it clear to coach Todd Bowles that he would like to come back and continue playing for New York.