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Jets could draft pass rusher

Auburn running back Michael Dyer, left, is brought

Auburn running back Michael Dyer, left, is brought down by South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram. (Oct. 1, 2011) Credit: AP

Joe Klecko wrapped his massive arms around Lynn Dickey, leveling the Green Bay quarterback into the Shea Stadium grass just minutes into the game -- the first of nine sacks the Jets would make during that wild card-clinching December game more than 30 years ago.

Dickey learned there was no outrunning the "New York Sack Exchange" of Mark Gastineau, Abdul Salaam, Marty Lyons and Klecko, the famed line that recorded most of the Jets' NFL-best 66 sacks in 1981. But the ferocious tenacity that defined their play in the late 1970s and into the '80s is a lost art among the current Jets.

They tried to shore up their pass rush by signing Aaron Maybin last year, but the outside linebacker (who led the team with only six sacks) is a situational rusher at best. Plus newly acquired defensive end Jay Richardson hasn't played since 2010.

The Jets likely will look toward Thursday's NFL draft for pass-rushing help. An outside linebacker better fits their 3-4 defensive scheme, but they still could pursue a defensive lineman.

The Jets, who have the 16th overall pick, have expressed interest in South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Memphis' Dontari Poe, among others. And general manager Mike Tannenbaum already has said he's willing to move up or down to claim his draft-day prize.

"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."

Calvin Pace, 31, is the team's best edge rusher, and soon-to-be 33-year-old Bryan Thomas is about seven months removed from Achilles tendon surgery -- meaning the Jets definitely could use a young pass-rushing outside linebacker or defensive end.

"I think when you look at it, seven of the eight outside linebackers on our board were all college defensive ends," senior personnel consultant Terry Bradway said this past week. "I think there's a good number. I think it's a position that we'd like to get a young guy in there that can play and help us win. If that happens, then we'll be happy."

Lyons, now a Jets radio analyst, agreed that the Jets need to draft a player who specializes in getting to the quarterback.

"I think any time you can put speed on the corner and you can get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing, it's a big bonus," said the former defensive tackle, who played 11 seasons for the Jets.

In its prime, the "New York Sack Exchange" forced quarterbacks to run for their lives.

Said Lyons: "The best way to say it is, it wasn't 'if' we were going to get to the quarterback, it was how many times we were going to get back there."

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