Vernon Gholston's development has been a hot topic ever since the Jets made him the sixth overall pick in 2008, a decision that leaves some scratching their heads to this very day because of his lack of production during his brief pro career.

Gholston already is getting tagged with the bust label, largely because his mediocre statistics aren't what many figured they would see out of a linebacker inked to a five-year, $32.5-million contract that included $21 million in guaranteed money. He mustered five tackles and zero sacks in 15 games last year and wasn't even active for the Jets' 31-27 win over the Bills on Dec. 14.

But with Calvin Pace's impending four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, Gholston's time has arrived. He's going to start in Pace's place, just as he did in Saturday night's 27-25 win over the Giants, a game in which he made only one tackle.

The muscular 6-3, 264-pound Ohio State product remains a work in progress. He still isn't putting it all together yet.

"He was aggressive, maybe a little inconsistent still," coach Rex Ryan said. "We've got to keep him going. But I think he's getting better and I think we saw that today. This is a good football team that we were up against and I thought he competed well."


For those who are quick to jump on the "Gholston is a bust" bandwagon, Bart Scott has two words for you: Mario Williams.

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Scott pointed to the situation that revolved around the player the Texans made the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, eschewing the opportunity to draft the explosive Reggie Bush and sparking some outrage among the fan base in Houston.

Williams had 35 tackles and 41/2 sacks in his rookie season but has become one of the league's top pass rushers with 14 and 12 sacks in his last two seasons. Bush, meanwhile, has been injury-prone.

"There was a big debate about who won that draft," Scott said. "And now people are starting to lean more to [Williams] because players like that can last a lot longer. He can affect the game in so many different ways."

Gholston still has to learn to play the run better -- the Giants ran directly at him at times -- and he's not consistently coming off his blocks. When he's engaged with a defender, he isn't using his hands enough to free himself. He needs to develop more moves in his repertoire as he gets acclimated to Ryan's scheme.


"I feel pretty comfortable, but me, I'm always trying to get better," Gholston said. "That's the thing. You can say it's my first year within this defense, but until you've been constantly doing it over and over and being in all the situations, your comfort level is still going to waver a little bit."

Gholston's most aggressive play Saturday led to a 15-yard penalty. His fourth-quarter sack and forced fumble on David Carr was negated when he was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit. So when he finally made a noteworthy play, it didn't count.

Scott, however, is positive there will be more aggressive plays coming soon from Gholston -- minus the penalties.

"I just look forward to being a part of it when the light turns all the way on," Scott said. "He's still a young player. I'm still learning, so I know he's still learning. He's in a system for the first time, so the game is slowing down for him. I think he's going to be a good one."