As the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, New York Jets DE/OLB Vernon Gholston carried with him lofty expectations. Coming out of Ohio State as arguably the best pass rusher available last season, however, Gholston was a major disappointment in his rookie season in New York, registering just 13 tackles - while failing to pick up a single sack - in spot duty as a rush linebacker reserve.
Drafted by a regime featuring the now-departed Eric Mangini, many believe that Gholston will find new life under aggressive new head coach Rex Ryan. Many are likening Gholston's abilities to those of Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, a 4-3 defensive end at Arizona State that struck it big in Baltimore as a 3-4 rush linebacker. Much of Ryan's success can in part be credited to the presence of Suggs, who remains one of the league's elite sack artists.
Ryan - never one to back down from making bold proclamations - has perpetuated the Gholston/Suggs comparisons, claiming that he sees big things for the second-year defender in his scheme. What do Jets fans ultimately believe of Gholston's prospects under Ryan in New York? John B of Gang Green Nation is our go-to guy for the Jets.
Gholston struggled through a highly unproductive rookie season switching from a 4-3 at Ohio State to Mangini's 3-4. Ryan has already claimed that he believes Gholston will explode onto the scene in his system, but as of right now, Gholston is not listed as a starter. What does Gholston need to accomplish to meet Ryan's expectations?
John B: He needs to become a difference maker. The Jets have playmakers at many of the same positions the Ravens do. They do not, however, have an edge rusher like Terrell Suggs. Suggs made Ryan's scheme next to impossible to block. Before any offensive lines had to account for his exotic blitzes from all angles, they had to first make sure they had their eyes on Suggs. This opened things up for others. There is only one Terrell Suggs in the NFL. Gholston does not have to be as good, but he does need to give the Jets a guy opposing lines have to keep their attention on. The team could not get any pressure on the quarterback without sending at least five a year ago. A pass rusher is sorely needed. Gholston was a top ten pick. He has had an entire year to learn his new position. There are no more excuses.
Unfortunately, I'm pessimistic on Gholston. A lot of players overcome disappointing starts to their careers. However, these players typically show flashes of promise and lead you to believe they can become something if they can bring it consistently. Gholston showed absolutely nothing in his rookie year - not one sack from a guy considered a one-dimensional pass rusher coming out. He looked like he was playing in quicksand. He does not own many moves, and his Combine athleticism does not appear to translate to pads and a helmet.
Ryan compared Gholston to Suggs, but he also compared Eric Smith to Ed Reed. I tend to think the analogies are equally off the wall.
I have nothing to add, and always appreciate a little pessimism from knowledgeable fans of our rivals. I, however, think Gholston has a chance to rebound in a big way under Ryan - and there's enough competition at his position to make him earn it. I'll close with this: I still believe that Gholston is ultimately a better fit in a 4-3, and I don't think he'll ever reach his full potential as a rush 'backer in a 3-4 defense. He was bred to play on the line.