Perhaps the greatest strength of this Jets defense will be its play in the middle. Not only do teams have to worry about NT Kris Jenkins, an All-Pro first-team selection last season, but the Green & White have what may prove to be a dominating inside tandem at linebacker with David Harris and Bart Scott.
In the Jets' defensive system, either Harris or Scott can play the all-important middle linebacker position. Opposing offenses are going to have a heck of a time identifying who's the "Mike" because both players can play well at that spot.
"We're hard to identify. They try to identify the Mike to get their blocking schemes together but we're interchangeable parts," Scott said. "I can be the Mike sometimes and David can be the Will [weakside] sometimes. It makes it difficult. They may call me the Mike, but I may be playing the Will and it mixes up their blocking schemes."
"Sometimes I might be dropping and covering a running back or tight end and the next play Bart will be doing that," Harris said. "Anytime you can do that, it just adds more versatility and kind of keeps the offense off-balance."
Harris, a 6'2", 245-pounder, is entering his third pro season. He's a tackling machine who's totaled 204 stops in just 20 NFL starts and Jets head coach Rex Ryan also likes his inside blitzing ability. Harris, who was limited to 11 games in 2008 due to a groin injury, registered five sacks as a rookie.
"My mentality is just to never give up on a play, play every down like it's your last because you never know what can happen," he said during a recent Jets Radio appearance on newyorkjets.com. "When you run to the ball, the coaches always say good things happen."
The 6'2", 240-pound Scott, who inked a lucrative long-term with the Jets at the commencement of free agency, is coming off of four consecutive 100-tackle seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He also has 16 career sacks, including a 9.5-sack season in 2006.
Scott's play does a lot of talking, but he also enjoys verbal communication. While anyone within 20 miles of Cortland Stadium can hear No. 57 on a practice day, Harris is a soft talker.
"I'm a loudmouth and he's kind of reserved — he's not a very outspoken guy," Scott said. "But he's a guy who you can engage in conversation and I'm more of an extreme as far as communication. I don't know how to shut up. If we had similar personalities, I think it would be pretty tough to get a word in, but he allows me to get a word in. He kind of just looks at me sometimes — he probably wishes sometimes that I would shut up."
But Harris doesn't mind the incessant chirping. In fact, he has grown very close to Scott in their short time together.
"I think Bart and I have a very good relationship. I feel like I've know him all my life and we complement each other very well," Harris said. "He is very talkative and I'm a little bit more reserved, but on the field we work together great."
The Jets' starting inside backers both hail from the middle of America. Harris, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, played his college ball at the University of Michigan and was a second-round pick of the Jets in 2007. Scott, who hails from Detroit, attended Southern Illinois and entered the league as an undrafted free agent with B-more in '02.
"We have a lot in common — same state, same kind of Midwest type of upbringing," said Scott. "He's real reserved and real prideful. I think that we complement each other. You could probably take us out of our own family and put us in each other's families and they wouldn't know the difference."
Something tells you that Scott might be a little more talkative at the dinner table than Harris. But they do share a lot in common in that both thumpers are blue-collar workers who move around like runaway trains.
"This new defense is going to be great for everybody. Coach Mike Pettine is doing a great job of putting guys in the best position to make plays," Harris said. "In this new scheme, we're just flying around and having fun. I think it's going to be a good year for us."
It should be. Jenkins is going to see his fair share of double teams yet again, but offenses are going to have a ton of difficulty even if they can slow down the big defensive tackle's penetration. In Harris and Scott, the Jets have the middle covered.
"I think it can be great. I'm so excited," Scott said. "Right now it's just potential, but we have a really great opportunity of being something special for many, many years. I look forward to watching David mature more as I mature and help him come from a young player to a player where the game really slows down for him. I'm excited. I just hope I'm around to be a part of it."