The Jets already have the foundation for a formidable defensive front — Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson (at least, for now) — but they’re still missing one key ingredient: an explosive edge rusher who can get to the quarterback.
Coach Todd Bowles has a need for speed, and he’s made it clear.
“I think we need to get faster,” he said at the conclusion of the 2015 season, in which the Jets went 10-6 but missed the playoffs because of a Week 17 loss to the Bills. “I don’t know about younger. We need to get faster. Obviously, certain areas we’re going to have more team speed on the field, and that’s always a process for me, being a faster team.”
With aging veterans such as David Harris, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, the Jets have no choice but to address team speed. A good place to start, in terms of infusing youth and athleticism, would be the pass-rushing department.
With Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, Ohio State’s Darron Lee, Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson available in this week’s NFL Draft, an edge rusher could be an option for the Jets at No. 20.
They took a step toward addressing that need earlier this offseason with the signing of former Canadian Football League pass rusher Freddie Bishop. The 6-3, 255-pound Western Michigan product had a breakout season for the Calgary Stampeders in 2015, recording 11 sacks, 44 tackles and a forced fumble in 16 games.
But the Jets need a big boost from their linebacking corps this season. Wilkerson had a career-high 12 sacks last season (and 10 1⁄2 in 2013), Richardson had eight in 2014 and Calvin Pace had 10 in 2013. But Jets fans have been longing for a dominant outside linebacker like John Abraham for more than a decade. Abraham, a Jets first-round pick in 2000, amassed 53 1⁄2 sacks in 73 games for the Jets in six seasons.
Some might argue that the Jets — a team with glaring quarterback and offensive line needs — shouldn’t consider a pass rusher at No. 20. Their last seven first-round picks have all been on the defensive side of the ball: Williams (sixth overall, 2015); Calvin Pryor (18th, 2014); Dee Milliner (ninth) and Richardson (13th, 2013); Quinton Coples (16th, 2012); Wilkerson (30th, 2011) and Kyle Wilson (29th, 2010).
But whether the Jets go edge rusher in Round 1 or not, it’s a position they’ll have to address before the three-day draft ends.
Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is expected to be the first edge rusher off the board Thursday night. But don’t despair, Jets fans. There are other options in Rounds 1 and 2.
Leonard Floyd, OLB
He has potential top-10 talent, but NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock raised a red flag: “If he doesn’t win with speed, he gets stuck. That worries me.”
Shaq Lawson, DE
His versatility in 3-4 and 4-3 fronts make him an intriguing option for NFL teams.
Darron Lee, OLB
He was the fastest linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, posting a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash. If Todd Bowles wants speed, look no further.