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Todd Bowles' Jets defense needs pass rusher

Todd Bowles is shown during a press conference

Todd Bowles is shown during a press conference where he was introduced as the New York Jets new head coach at the Jets Practice Facility in Florham Park, N.J. on Jan. 21, 2015. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Complicated and complex.

That's how Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu described Todd Bowles' defense back in January, the same month he learned his former defensive coordinator was leaving Arizona to become coach of the Jets.

Bowles loves cornerbacks just as much as predecessor Rex Ryan does. He also favors an aggressive 3-4 scheme and a hefty amount of blitzing.

"I think he blitzes more than Rex," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said during Super Bowl week, not long before he reunited with Bowles and the Jets during free agency.

As laid-back and low-key as Bowles may be, he's every bit the defensive mind Ryan is. But unlike the former Jets coach, Bowles has a standout secondary at his disposal. Now he can focus on one of the team's biggest areas of need in Round 1 of Thursday's draft: an edge rusher.

"Calvin Pace is 34, [Jason] Babin is 35. They need a young dude," NFL Network's Mike Mayock recently said of the Jets' aging outside linebackers. "They need somebody that can get after the quarterback naturally."

USC's Leonard Williams and Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida are the headliners of this year's class of pass rushers. But both are expected to be gone before the Jets make their selection at No. 6 -- provided there are no Day 1 trades.

Fortunately for Bowles and first-time general manager Mike Maccagnan, there will be several pass-rushing options if they choose to stick with their current draft position.

Missouri's Shane Ray, a former teammate and close friend of Sheldon Richardson's, largely was considered a top-five pick for months before recent concern about his nagging toe injury cropped up. Vic Beasley of Clemson stands out because of his speed and athleticism, and Kentucky's Bud Dupree is gaining momentum in mock drafts for his fierce pursuit of quarterbacks.

There's also a chance the Jets could snag Virginia edge rusher Eli Harold in the second round. The 6-3, 247-pounder finished his career with 171/2 sacks, including seven last season.

The Jets have two young standouts on their defensive line in Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, who they anticipate eventually will sign a long-term deal. But the front seven was unable to generate constant quarterback pressure last season because of the team's shaky secondary play.

Richardson, a tackle, led the Jets with eight sacks. But the high-priced additions of Cromartie, shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis and nickel back Buster Skrine will ease the pressure on the players up front.

"He's soft-spoken, humble, but he knows what he's doing," Mathieu said of Bowles during Super Bowl week. "You've got to have some good players on defense, I'll tell you that much."

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