Jets might look to draft pass rusher

Former Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston is shown Former Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston is shown during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins. (Sept. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and ...

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

The last time the Jets were interested in a big-time pass rusher, the results were . . . well, let's just say things didn't quite work out the way they'd hoped.

The year was 2008, the player was Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston and the Jets had the sixth overall pick. They thought he would transition well as a pass-rushing force in their 3-4 scheme. Coming off a season in which he had a school-record 14 1/2 sacks, Gholston was coveted by then-coach Eric Mangini, who successfully lobbied general manager Mike Tannenbaum over the objections of some in the scouting department.

But Gholston quickly turned into one of the franchise's biggest draft-day disappointments, failing to register a single sack in three seasons before being released in 2011.

After getting only 35 sacks last season, the Jets could very well be looking to the draft -- possibly the first round -- for another pass rusher. This time, they can't afford to miss.

"We all make mistakes," Tannenbaum said Thursday, referring to the Gholston pick. "We're going to learn from ours."

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He accepted full responsibility, even though it was Mangini who pushed hard for Gholston. "That was my decision," Tannenbaum said. "There were a lot of things we liked about him. Obviously, it didn't work out. Vernon gave us everything he had. From where I sit, it's most important that we learn from it so that it doesn't happen again."

This offseason has been all about Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow and more Tim Tebow. Which is all well and good if you can't get enough of the debate involving the backup (for now, anyway) to Mark Sanchez. But the defense is just as big an issue for a team that regressed last season and was as critical a factor in their late-season meltdown as the offense.

Rex Ryan is convinced he has the right players for a defensive resurgence in 2012, but there still are major question marks heading into next week's draft. It's why they have to come away with at least one pass rusher who can reinvigorate the defense.

They brought in South Carolina outside linebacker Melvin Ingram this week for a look-see, although Ingram could be gone unless the Jets move up from their No. 16 spot. Other blue-chip pass rushers include end Quinton Coples of North Carolina, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw of Alabama and end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus of Illinois.

"Coples is a phenomenal athlete," Jets vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales said. "Ingram, this was his breakout year. Upshaw, they won a national championship. He's physical, strong, aggressive."

So the Jets certainly will have options at a position of need. Calvin Pace is their most talented edge rusher but his performance often doesn't match his upside. Aaron Maybin, a first-round disappointment in Buffalo, resurrected his career with the Jets with six sacks and four forced fumbles last year. Bryan Thomas is coming off an Achilles injury.

Translation: The Jets need more. And they'll keep swinging until they find someone who fits their need, even if memories of the Gholston debacle remain fresh. "I don't think you can be gun-shy about going back at the position," Clinkscales said.

It's a good bet Clinkscales and the rest of the Jets' braintrust will come away with someone to beef up the pass rush in next week's draft.

This time, they'd better get it right.

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