NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. — The Jets may not have their starting quarterback yet, but their defense already has undergone a transformation under second-year coach Todd Bowles.
There’s been a slight shift in “defensive philosophy,” according to inside linebacker David Harris. And Bowles is already looking to spice things up in 2016.
“He’s throwing more stuff at us,” Harris said Monday at his annual charity golf outing benefiting the “Give The Kids Hope Foundation.”
“Last year, at this point, we were kind of vanilla. In May, we were kind of doing the basics. But I think he’s throwing a lot at us and we’re going over it in walkthroughs and they’re testing us to see what we retain from the meetings and what we see out there. So, I think it’s good.”
The Jets finished fourth in total defense (318.6 yards per game) last season, Bowles’ first as an NFL head coach. The unit also ranked 13th in passing defense (235.2) and second in rushing defense (83.4). So far this offseason, the Jets have addressed one major need: team speed. Also while Bowles looks to tweak things, his linebacking corps will be going through its own metamorphosis.
Gone are 14-year veteran Calvin Pace (currently a free agent) and Demario Davis, a 2013 draft pick who signed with the Browns in March. In their place are newcomers such as Darron Lee, the Jets’ first-round pick last month and third-rounder Jordan Jenkins. Plus, 2015 draft-pick Lorenzo Mauldin will figure to play a much bigger role as a sophomore.
Harris, their 32-year-old MIKE linebacker, is vital to the transition.
“I know I have to step up even more because . . . we’re young,” said the veteran, who is responsible for communicating the play calls and making sure everyone is in the right position. “So I’ve got to make sure everybody’s on the same page, got to make sure that they’re on top of their playbook.
“It’s only the third or fourth week of meetings and stuff, but I think they’re trying to get it because they’re looked at to be huge parts of this defense. You’ve got to approach it like the training wheels are coming off and for Darron, they might come off a little bit faster because he is a first-round pick.”
Harris said he’s been impressed by the inquisitive Lee, who constantly asks questions. And not only is the former Ohio State linebacker “a fast learner,” but Lee’s athleticism will be “a huge asset to the team,” he said.
“He’s specializes in covering guys and the way the league is, it’s a passing league, of course. And we play so many great tight ends week in and week out, it’ll just be a huge plus for us,” Harris added, before hitting the course.
He hosted his first charity golf event in 2011, and like in years past, there was a sizable turnout by Jets coaches and players.
Proceeds from Monday’s golf fundraiser will be used primarily for repairs and renovations at Camp Hope in West Milford, N.J., where over 2,700 underprivileged children attend summer camp for free.
“Just seeing their faces,” Harris said. “When I was 11 years old I went to a summer camp for a week and I had a blast. I think every kid should be able to experience that; get away from their neighborhoods and the rest of their families, just hang out with their friends in the woods and do things that kids do. So I think it’s a great opportunity.”