On the Jets' first day of training camp he was active and batted down a pass. On the second day he "sacked" the quarterback and blew up plays in the backfield a number of times.
Defensive end Vernon Gholston, earning multiple "attaboys" from defensive line coach Mark Carrier and his teammates, has been showing a spark that many Jets fans have hoped to see since he was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft.
"The biggest thing," Gholston said, "is trying to get better and be a little bit more aggressive as you know what you're doing and know the playbook."
In his third year, the 6'3", 264-pound former Ohio State standout understands that he needs to make his presence known on the field to quiet his doubters. Since the spring, Gholston has been taking some reps with the first team, and at this morning's training camp practice he was seen in a variety of different packages and formations that allowed him to use his combination of quickness and might that was so impressive as a Buckeye and at the NFL combine.
A big factor in his success will be returning from linebacker to the end position he played with the Buckeyes.
"Reading the blocking schemes and just getting that familiarity back, that's the biggest thing when you're talking about putting your hand back on the ground," Gholston said. "It's something that is coming back to me and I'm going to continue to get better, and obviously the quicker it happens, the better."
The ease that he feels at DE was evident today, and his speed and power are a difficult combination for an offensive lineman to deal with. In some of the 1-on-1 drills he made tackles miss and bulled past tight ends. The ability he has shown this offseason has impressed his teammates and coaches.
"He's actually working the outside, inside — he's all over," veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "Just watching him out there, he's seems faster, seems stronger. He's already really strong anyway. He's looking really good out there."
Head coach Rex Ryan has mentioned Gholston in each of his news conferences here at Cortland, saying that he has had "a couple of big days". If those days turn into a couple of big weeks, Gholston may give himself a great chance to consistently show his mettle in the regular season.
"He's got to step up and show what he can do," Ryan said. "This is year three. That's when you're going to do it. I think the young man is going to play in the league a long time, but I want him to be a Jet. I want to see him make plays right now for us."
Highly touted coming out of college, where he was All-Big Ten first team and the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year as a senior, Gholston has not put up the impressive numbers that were seen when he routinely abused offensive tackles and laid out opposing quarterbacks in college. As a Buckeye he started 25 games and finished with 87 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks.
On the professional level, however, he's only started three games and made 30 tackles in his two seasons as a Jet. He realizes the amount of time he spends on the field and the production he provides must increase and that the coaching staff will be keeping a weather eye on his progress.
"They told me they're going to be on me," Gholston said. "Obviously they expect a lot out of me. The biggest thing right now for me is to continue to take steps forward to get better. Knowing the playbook, I have a pretty solid foundation for that from experience."
He's two years deep into his time with the Jets, and now has a full year's knowledge of Ryan's and Mike Pettine's defense. The next step is regaining that status as a major threat to attack the quarterback on every pass play, and to do it when it counts.