A look at the 2014 Offseason: Jets Linebackers
In the weeks leading up to the Jets 2014 Training Camp, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the key storylines to follow this summer.
The Jets linebacker group worked on becoming better technicians this spring and Demario Davis thought improvements were made.
"I feel like we got better. The main thing we wanted to do was grow," said Davis. "We did a lot of good things last year. We did a lot of bad things. But we got better."
1. Keep an Eye on No. 56: Demario Davis had huge shoes to fill last season and he responded in fine fashion as his teammates recognized him as the club's most inspirational player when they voted him the Dennis Byrd Award Winner.
Taking over for Bart Scott at weakside 'backer, Davis started every game and finished second on the team with 120 tackles. He has some freakish athletic gifts and his speed was most evident at OTAs and minicamp.
"I feel like I showed the coaching staff they can rely on me every down, but I have to be more physical at the point of attack. I have to be more instinctive," said Davis. "I have to have better first steps and better reads. When the guard comes around, I have to be at the line of scrimmage so we can make sure we get the tackle in the backfield."
"Demario is stepping up, he's communicating and he's going to be another leader on this defense for us," said ILB David Harris. "He's going to be a heck of a player in this league for a long time."
2. Pace Developing as a Pass Rusher: It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Calvin Pace, who will turn 34 in October, set a career high with 10 sacks in his 11th season. Always stout against the run, CP will again look to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks.
"He's continuing to work at it and get better," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. "As a Sam linebacker and run stuffer, he's the best in the league."
3. Batman & Robin: The Jets have a tremendous tandem in the middle with Demario Davis and David 'The Hitman' Harris. The Jets finished third in the NFL against the run and the ageless Harris, now third on the franchise's tackle list with 869 stops, is coming off a career-high 149-tackle campaign.
"It's kind of like a Batman, Robin type of relationship. He's Batman, I'm Robin," Davis said. "If something happens to him, I have to be ready to step up. He mentors me a lot in that area. When we hit the field, we are back-to-back. You take care of your side. I'll take care of my side. I have to be able to trust him. He has to be able to trust me. I wouldn't want to play with anybody else."
4. Specialist Barnes on the Mend: The Jets need more consistent edge pressure and a healthy Antwan Barnes could play a huge role in sub packages. Blessed with great wheels, Barnes has racked up 20.5 sacks over his past 43 games.
Unfortunately Barnes tore his ACL in a Week 5 win at Atlanta after registering a pair of sacks and 16 QB hurries.
"I just started running and everything like that. I'm getting there," he told NewYorkJets.com's Randy Lange in June. "I know I'm over 70 percent, according to John [Mellody, head trainer]. He says I'm right on schedule."
5. Health: One of the top priorities for any team at training camp is to get through it as unscathed as possible. The Bills already lost a budding star in Kiko Alonso when their young playmaking LB suffered a torn ACL while working out in Oregon.
Nick Bellore, who led the Green & White with 27 special teams stops in 2013, provides depth behind Davis and Harris. A.J. Edds, a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2010 who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, has opened some eyes and it will be interesting to watch him on special teams.
Garrett McIntyre, a high motor performer, is back on the outside behind Pace and Quinton Coples. Rookie Steele Divitto, a UDFA from Boston College, flashed at times during the spring and draft picks Jeremiah George and IK Enemkpali are in the mix as well.