Lorenzo Mauldin is the kind of young man that Jets fans can really get behind. As a second-year linebacker who won't turn 24 until October, he still has a great enthusiasm for the game and no challenge is too big for him.
Such as the hurdle facing him this preseason to become a well-rounded outside 'backer.
"Yeah, I feel good," Mauldin told me after today's return to practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "Last year was a little slow for me. Now I've had an offseason and was able to get my feet under me and get the playbook down. So I come out here more fluid, the coaches like it, and they want me to be the starter. I've just got to live with those expectations."
Head coach Todd Bowles wasn't tipping his hand as to who among his OLBs — Mauldin, rookie Jordan Jenkins, Mike Catapano and Freddie Bishop on the first two units (with Trevor Reilly sidelined due to injury) — was showing him the most.
"All of them are having their ups and downs," Bowles said. "All of them are getting off the ball at times and all of them are getting stuck on blocks at times. We'll get a better gauge on Thursday and going forward."
Week 3 of Jets Camp Kicks Off
Thursday night, of course, is the Jets' preseason opener at MetLife Stadium against Jacksonville. And again Mauldin's enthusiasm comes through in discussing the Jaguars. Fans may remember Lorenzo broke out with the first two sacks of his career, actually one full sack and two half-sacks, against QB Blake Bortles and the Jags in Game 8 last year.
"I feel like now that I'm getting my reps, I should do way better than I did last year," he said, ignoring the prospect that he and the first defense may be on the field for only about a quarter. "I thought I had a good game but I want to have an even better game."
If that's his mindset for the preseason opener, what will it be for the regular-season opener against Cincinnati and beyond? I asked Mauldin if he had any goals he cared to talk about for his second season in the NFL and his first possibly as a frontline player.
"My goal is to get to a Pro Bowl. That's the biggest thing," he said. "If I'm going to be a starter, I should be making starter plays. If I do that, I'm hoping for a Pro Bowl."
Ah, youth. Here's wishing Lorenzo all the best in pursuit of his goal.