On the Roster in 2015
Demario Davis, David Harris, Erin Henderson, Taiwan Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Josh Martin, Lorenzo Mauldin, Calvin Pace, Trevor Reilly, Quinton Coples (waived), Deion Barnes (PS), Julian Howsare (PS), Julian Stanford (PS)
Potential Free Agents
Demario Davis, Erin Henderson, Jamari Lattimore, Calvin Pace
MLB David Harris again served as "the glue that keeps everybody together," according to head coach Todd Bowles. Harris and Demario Davis both notched 100-plus tackles together for the third straight season and both were among the D's leaders in tackles at or behind the line for the run defense, whose No. 2 NFL ranking was the best by the Jets since their No. 2 ranking way back in 1970. The LBs contributed 14.5 of the team's 39 sacks. And they were right in the middle of the Jets' No. 4 overall yardage ranking, their best since 2009.
On the downside was the unit's coverage of RBs in the passing game and the lack of playing time for 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples, whom the Jets waived Nov. 23. "I think Quinton still has a good future," Bowles said. "It just wasn't playing with us."
Amid the "everything" that Bowles said Harris does for the Green & White defense, he continued in his "Hitman" role. His 128 tackles by coaches' video breakdown marked the eighth time in his nine seasons that he led the Jets with triple-digit tackles, and with an average season in '16 he will move past Mo Lewis and into second place behind Kyle Clifton on the Jets' all-time tackles list.
Davis for the first time in three seasons shared his ILB position with Erin Henderson, who picked up over the final six games where he left off as the Vikings starter through 2013. OLB Calvin Pace said he feels like he can still play a few more seasons. Pace in his 13th pro season and eighth Jets year, may have been off his previous pace but still made plays, such as his 12th Jets strip-sack against the Jaguars, two off John Abraham's franchise mark.
Third-round rookie Lorenzo Mauldin showed signs that he can be the edge rusher the Jets have been seeking. He got his first forced fumble in the season opener against Cleveland, he finished with four sacks, including his first two-sack game as a pro vs. Jacksonville, and he applied 19 QB hits, most by a Jets LB and tied for third on the defense.
OLB Trevor Reilly didn't see many reps on defense but he stood out and not just because he was the D's bearded presence as Ryan Fitzpatrick was for the offense. Reilly also was first on the Jets on both sides of the ball in special teams plays (300) and tackles (15). Jamari Lattimore was second in ST snaps (278) and contributed 12 tackles in kick coverage.
The Green & White linebackers in '16 figure to keep something classical about themselves while continuing to evolve under GM Mike Maccagnan's hand. Davis and Pace, for instance, are multiyear Jets who both could become unrestricted free agents.
But Todd and Mac want to increase speed at all positions, so we can look for Mauldin to attempt to become an every-down 'backer and not just a pass rusher, as well as for some speedy additions through free agency and the draft.
And there are a few 'backers that fans didn't see a whole lot of during 2015 who will at least get to push for jobs during the offseason and preseason, among them Josh Martin (signed off the Colts practice squad to the Jets active roster Nov. 24) and Taiwan Jones (signed off the Jets practice squad Dec. 18), neither of whom played a down. Three more practice-squadders should also get some looks from Bowles and DC Kacy Rodgers: Deion Barnes (on the practice squad all season), Julian Howsare (on the P-squad for all but three weeks), and Julian Stanford (added to the practice squad Dec. 1 after seeing action with three NFL teams before the Jets).