CB Dwight Lowery explodes from the starting blocks.
Eric Mangini was on the treadmill but Vernon Gholston had his attention. Mangini, who was exercising one day early this off-season, was watching tape of the Ohio State defender when a thought entered his mind.
"This could be the sixth pick in the draft," Mangini recalled when he met with reporters late this afternoon.
The 6'4", 264-pound Gholston could obviously rush the passer but Mangini saw many more favorable attributes that attracted him to the Buckeye.
"I liked the way he was able to set the edge and I liked the way he affected the quarterback," said the third-year head coach. "I liked the fact that I was able to see him drop into coverage. And not just drop in coverage but be part of rush schemes that combined the interior lines and the linebacker where he had to blitz-peel on a running back coming out."
After Gholston stepped on the practice field this morning, the Jets' top selection talked about patience.
"It's a grind, trying to learn everything. It's a new system and obviously the first time being back on the football field in a while," he said. The first practice, he added, "went well, but at the same time you want to keep doing better. You have to understand this is going to be a process and don't expect everything to happen in one day."
Gholston probably hasn't received too much Jets gear yet because he sported an Ohio State T-shirt today in the locker room. The Green & White's new outside linebacker, a thick dude, has already mentally prepared himself for the on-field transition.
"Just understand that everything is going to be stepped up another level. This is the NFL and guys are fighting about being in the NFL, let alone getting playing time," he said. "Everyone is going to kick it up a notch from college and I have to understand that I have to kick it up a notch."
Following his New York arrival and a Thursday evening meeting, Gholston returned to his room and opened up his new playbook.
"I had homework last night and it's rough. You have to keep grinding away at it and keep learning and keep studying," he said. "Hopefully, eventually, I will get the system down."
When Gholston was asked if he was excited for his first on-field professional instruction, he nodded his head and took a humble approach.
"I'll finally be in the NFL and hopefully working to contribute, but I know I have a long ways to go and I have to keep working," he said.
Moments before newyorkjets.com stopped Gholston, the second of the Jets' two first-round draft selections met with a horde of reporters in the small room adjacent to the main locker area. Dustin Keller, the Purdue tight end whom New York's AFC representative moved up to grab at No. 30 overall, was a bit surprised by the trade with the Green Bay Packers.
"I thought there was a possibility I'd end up here, but I didn't think it was going to be until the early second round," he said.
The Jets passed on waiting and went and got their guy. Keller, who had a career-high 68 receptions and seven touchdowns last season for the Boilers, is often compared to Indianapolis Colts standout Dallas Clark.
"I did see a lot of his games," he said of Clark. "I really don't put too much comparison between me and him just because I try to be my own player."
Last weekend Keller said during a Web radio interview that he lined up 90 percent of the time at Purdue as a traditional TE. That could obviously change with the Jets as coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will continue to look for favorable matchups.
"It's difficult because he's faster than your average big guy," Mangini said of Keller. "The stress that he can put on you defensively, especially down the middle of the field, you have to account for. If you want to cover him with a defensive back, that may be a function of having to rotate down opposite the run strength to get the defensive back to cover him. Or if you want to substitute and put a defensive back in the game and move the linebacker, then you've got some size mismatches there."
The knock on Keller coming out of school was his blocking ability. Mangini views blocking as a skill that players "can get a lot better at."
"I know he's made strides over his years in college," he said. "And it's something that he's going to continue to work on here as well, to be an every-down player and to be able to fill all the different roles."
This afternoon reporters were allowed outside to view a 45-minute portion of the second workout of the weekend. There were 57 players (50 rookies and seven first-year veterans with less than one accrued season) on hand but Gholston, donning a pass rusher's No. 56, got most of the attention.
In the first period, Gholston stood up as an OLB on the left side as Ropati Pitoitua played LDE, David Thompson lined up at nose and Bryan Mattison went to RDE. Nobody would confuse the drills for full-tempo action as players performed in shorts and helmets.
But Gholston, who racked up 22.5 sacks at Ohio State, appeared fluid rushing forward and dropping into coverage against fellow defenders providing a look. Gholston played the hybrid "Leo" position at Ohio State, so playing LB is something he's comfortable with.
"I stood on my feet sometimes and that's what I'm doing here," he said earlier. "It helped me adjust to [playing linebacker] —something that is not new to me."
But he's new to the Jets and he's in the spotlight to start his pro career.