It was another steamy training camp practice and C.J. Mosley was hot. But it had nothing to do with the temperature.
The Jets offense had little trouble moving the football against their defense. Mosley, the new leader of the defense, doesn’t say much. But he said something to ratchet up the unit and directed some of his words at Adam Gase.
“He knows when to pull guys together and say something,” Gase said. “He made the comment to me, ‘Hey, you guys are done moving the ball, we're going to straighten this thing up right now. This is not acceptable for us.’ And then it changes. He has great timing when it's time to speak up.”
Change is the operative word for the Jets this season. They’ve undergone many changes, and they’ve added some game changers. Le’Veon Bell was the marquee signing during the offseason, but Mosley could prove to be the bigger pickup.
Mosley is widely considered one of the best middle linebackers in the league. He’s made four Pro Bowls in five years, and was the play-caller on the Ravens top-ranked defense last year. Gase called Mosley “a culture changer.”
That moment in practice was an example of how prideful Mosley is, how serious he takes his role and the impact he can have on a defense. His teammates respond to him.
“If you’re going to let things slide in practice they’re going to slide during the game,” Mosley said. “That’s how a losing culture begins. Little things always matter. When you do the little things right the big things don’t seem as hard because you’re always in the right position.”
WRITE IT DOWN
Mosley, 27, usually is in the right position, and he has his teammates in the right spot as well.
He’s the quarterback of the defense, proficient at reading the offense and adjusting before the snap, or settling everyone when there’s any confusion or when a late call comes in from the sideline. It’s no coincidence that the Ravens were a Top 10 defense in four of Mosley’s five years in Baltimore. In that same time frame, the Jets finished 22nd or higher four times in points allowed.
Former Ravens linebacker Albert McClellan, who the Jets signed late in camp, said Mosley is a tremendous leader and his best attribute is "getting the people around him to play better and come together as one."
Jets senior defensive assistant Joe Vitt has been in the NFL since 1979. He’s seen and coached many great players, and he said Mosley’s ability to fix the defense quickly is a “unique” quality and skill
“You have to have a player that has the confidence to get a defense lined up and then pre-snap make adjustments when the offense goes to a shift in their motion to get us out of a bad defense. He excels at that,” Vitt said. “You got a guy like that who’s smart, takes on that responsibility, he’s big, he’s physical, he can tackle, he’s got character, he’s got production — that’s a special guy.”
It’s all about pre-snap recognition for Mosley.
“I don’t say a lot, but I observe a lot,” Mosley said
To be as prepared as he possibly can, the Alabama product watches a lot of film. But he’s also picked up a different form of studying from former Ravens teammate and fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Mosley said Suggs took notes on every team Baltimore would play, particularly within their division. Mosley decided he would do the same. Now, he’s a major note taker.
“He showed the way,” Mosley said. “When you have a guy like that, in year 17 still taking notes even though he knows, still writing down the same things, that repetition mentally helps you.”
Mosley took notes on his iPad with Baltimore, but he’s handwriting his notes with his new team.
Vitt said Mosley had his book open at his very first defensive meeting, sat in the front, and took “meticulous notes.” Mosley brings that notebook with him to every meeting, then home with him at night and reviews it and highlights the important stuff.
“It’s easier to remember things when you write it down,” Mosley said. “That’s a good switch-up for me. I feel like every year you should always try to do something new to make your game better.
“My handwriting isn’t good, but the notes are.”
WORTH THE MONEY
Mosley is on the quiet side. He lets his play do his talking, and that comes across loud and clear.
As a rookie, his teammate Elvis Dumervil called Mosley “half-man, half-amazing.” The nickname stuck. Last year, when legendary Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he said Mosley was the best middle linebacker in the NFL.
The Ravens didn’t slap the franchise tag on Mosley, but they had never allowed a first-round pick who made multiple Pro Bowls to leave after his rookie deal expired. It was a surprise to many that Mosley was even available.
Even Jets safety Jamal Adams, who was on a free-agent recruiting mission, didn’t attempt to attract Mosley when the two played together in the Pro Bowl. He figured Mosley was returning to Baltimore.
“I never saw C.J. hitting the market,” Adams said. “I definitely told him if I played with a linebacker like you it would be fun. My wishes were granted, and we’re excited to have him.”
The Jets didn’t give Baltimore the chance to bring back Mosley. They gave him a five-year, $85 million contract, with $51 million guaranteed, to lead new coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense. With a contract like that comes great responsibilities and pressure. But Mosley isn’t feeling any of it and for good reason.
Mosley is putting in the work on the field, in the classroom and at home. He hasn’t missed a practice, which has shown tremendous leadership to not only his younger teammates but some veterans that he’s hungry to be the best player he can be and help the Jets end their eight-year playoff drought.
“With a new contract, I won’t say all guys, but sometimes the routine slips when you kind of get what you’re looking for for a while,” Mosley said. “I came here to win. That’s what upstairs has done, too. They made moves, they made changes, the brought the right guys in.”
The 6-2, 240-pound Mosley has wrecked offenses to the tune of 597 tackles, 43 for a loss, 65 quarterback hits, nine interceptions, 8.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, five recoveries and he’s missed just three games in his career.
Mosley is one of two players with more than 500 tackles, eight interceptions and eight sacks since 2014. Panthers inside linebacker and former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly is the other.
“He’s a guy that does everything right,” said Jets running back Ty Montgomery, who finished last season with the Ravens. “I remember seeing it in Baltimore. Just watching him, I was like, ‘That guy is everywhere.’ ”
“He's an action guy,” Gase said. “Everything he does, there's a reason why he's been as good as he's been. There's a reason why he's a leader.”
WIN NOW, BABY
Mosley read the offense and Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield’s eyes. It was the closing seconds of the last game of last season and the Browns were driving, down 26-24.
A Cleveland win, and the Ravens are bounced from the playoffs. A Ravens win, and they capture the division. The Ravens blitzed, and Mosley stayed in coverage. Mayfield threw the ball, but couldn’t get it over Mosley. He was in the right position, of course.
Mosley tipped the pass, grabbed it, fell to the ground for his only interception of 2018 and saved the Ravens season.
Hours earlier, the Jets completed a 4-12 season with a loss in New England. Adams railed in the locker room about the Jets needing more “dawgs.” They got one in Mosley.
“We’re here to win the Super Bowl,” Mosley said. “It was a great feeling winning the division championship last year. I definitely want to get that again. What better place than to start a new chapter with another great organization? We got a lot of young guys and coaches that want to win now and are ready to win.
“That’s my plan — to try and get that same feeling.”
C.J. Mosley has the fifth-most tackles in the NFL since 2014:
No. Player, Team Games
654 Bobby Wagner, Seahawks 73
628 Luke Kuechly, Panthers 70
601 Lavonte David, Bucs 73
581 Telvin Smith, Jaguars 76
574 C.J. Mosley, Jets 77