As they move forward without Sheldon Richardson, the Jets remain confident in their defensive line.
"We have depth there. That was our deepest position at the time," head coach Todd Bowles told reporters Monday. "Obviously we have three other guys that can play and we have (Mike) Pennel who can play and we have Claude (Pelon) who can play. So you don't replace a guy like that, you just do different things."
Things change quickly in the National Football League. As the Jets opened their first regular-season week of 2017, the 6'4", 300-pound Pelon had a practice jersey with the No. 91 that Richardson had worn the past four seasons.
"He can be a great player. He has all of the attributes," said DL Leonard Williams when asked about Pelon. "He's big, he's strong, fast and he's been in this system for a while now so he knows what he is doing."
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While players like Pelon and Pennel, along with recent waiver claim Kony Ealy, could potentially become key rotational players for the Green & White, Pro Bowlers Williams and Wilkerson will line up on either side of Steve McLendon in the base 3-4. An emerging force, Williams said he has been in touch with Richardson since the trade.
"I told him how much I appreciate everything he's done for me," Williams said. "He was a Pro Bowler and one of those top guys in the league when I came in. He definitely gave me a bunch of advice. He helped me out a lot as a rookie and coming in as a young player. He helped me out a lot by what he did on the field and everything like that. I'm going to miss him, he's a great guy, a great football player. I wish him the best of the luck."
The 31-year old McLendon sounded like a coach in the locker room, emphasizing the importance of playing right over personnel.
"Have our alignmeents right, do our assignments and just work on our technique and just play fast, play hard and play smart. We can't worry about any moving pieces," he said. "We just have to worry about the guys that are on the field at the time and when you're on the field you have to communicate."
In WR Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick, the Jets liked the value they got in return for Richardson. They also are well positioned along the defensive line to absorb the loss, but he was a charismatic personality who will be missed.
"It's hard when you lose someone like that. Me and Sheldon are very close relationship off the field," Bowles said. "That'll go way beyond football so we understand it's a business, both of us, and we'll go from there. But we'll be talking long after football is over."