Do the Jets need a youth movement at outside linebacker? Absolutely. So with the news about Mizzou’s Michael Sam potentially becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player, could the SEC’s 2013 co-Defensive Player of the Year become part of the Jets this May?
Dom Cosentino of the Star-Ledger wrote five reasons that the Jets should consider Michael Sam. Here’s the first of his reasons and one which we agree with.
He can fit the scheme. Sam was a 4-3 defensive end in college who can be converted to a 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, but ignore any qualms about his lack of size; many of the top 3-4 OLBs around the league—Justin Houston, Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, to name the three with the highest 2013 grades from Pro Football Focus—are similarly sized. And for you Jets fans twitching at the thought of a Vernon Gholston repeat: Just because Vernon Gholston was Vernon Gholston doesn’t mean Michael Sam will suddenly become Vernon Gholston. One guy’s inability to make the DE-OLB transition has nothing to do with another’s.
Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comMany those who have studied film on Sam say they like his motor, but that his game has some holes and that likely makes him a mid-round talent. Sam is a co-defensive SEC Player of the Year, an impressive honor. Very few of them are ever drafted outside the first few rounds. But still, that seems to be the talk on Sam, regardless of his recent statement.
The Jets are a defense that needs to find more mid-round players who can come in and be productive thanks to the players the team already has in place. After watching the Sons of Anarchy help Calvin Pace post a 10 sack performance for the first time in his career at age 33, one starts to believe that the Jets don’t need a pricey veteran, or even an early round draft pick at outside linebacker this coming year. Antwan Barnes was on pace for a good season before he was injured, but again he is another over 30 year old player. The Jets need to get appreciably younger and more athletic but don’t need that player to be Jadaveon Clowney. Drafting a player like Sam might obviate the need for Barnes going forward, but would add a degree of youth needed at the edge of the defense.
Even if Sam only has one pass rush move at the age of 24, it stands to reason that he could be a help to the Jets. Does he need to be coached up? Absolutely, there’s work to be done on his pass-rush technique and he must get better against the run to see time with a defense like the Jets.
Sam is known as a competitor, a guy who plays hard and investing a middle round draft pick in a spot like outside linebacker is exactly how the Jets need to move forward to address the spot. If Sam can demonstrate decent quickness (not necessarily 40 yard dash, but three cone drill and shuttle) at the Combine as well as some upside in drills and workouts this spring against the run, then the Jets might have interest as we think there’s a fit for him in New York.