The New York Jets haven’t had a decent pass rusher since John Abraham. I’ll tell you why Dylan Donahue is going to change that.
One of the hardest transitions in the NFL is that of the player moving from a hand in the dirt (defensive line) to a standing 3-4 outside linebacker. Despite the difficulty, the New York Jets have tried over and over to find the player who can do it.
A swing and a miss as they say. Or perhaps a few misses, yikes. Well as the great Michael Jordan famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
So, you can’t blame the Jets for trying. The Jets have drafted 30 defensive linemen/linebackers this century. Some couldn’t make the conversion and stayed on the line, some attempted to and flopped out of the league, and some moved inside to a MIKE linebacker role.
The Jets have tried going high in the draft to fix their pass rushing issues: Vernon Gholston, Quinton Coples, Bryan Thomas and Darron Lee, to name a few. Darron Lee is a hybrid player who plays inside and outside. His main position will be replacing David Harris when he passes the torch.
The late trend has been to draft some intriguing prospects in the middle rounds, and over the last three years, they’ve used a mid-round pick on an EDGE player.
While Mauldin has had only two years, Jenkins only one, and Donahue hasn’t suited up yet, the spot is up for grabs. The Jets took a chance in the fifth round by going for Donahue out of West Georgia.
He received a ton of accolades including:
- Second-team Associated Press Little All-American team honors
- Gulf South Defensive Player of the Year in 2016
- Along with multiple All-American honors
- Holds conference record for sacks in a season (13.5 sacks)
While certainly impressive, this all comes to him while playing at a smaller school. That’s one thing Donahue has said bothers him and puts a tremendous chip on his shoulder.
“I feel like if I had played at a D-I school, I would’ve been in the first, second round,” he said confidently via ESPN. “I have no doubt in my mind, actually, about that.”
His intensity and passion could lead him to a starting gig and some, but his journey could’ve changed with a new addition to the coaching staff.
After a 5-11 season, head coach Todd Bowles was due to make some changes. One of those included the outside linebackers coach, Mark Collins, who Bowles fired after holding the position for two seasons.
When one door closes another one opens and a big one did when Bowles brought in Hall of Famer Kevin Greene. Greene is someone who Donahue has a special relationship with, even if Greene didn’t know it.
“I feel like me and Coach Greene have something in common,” he said via ESPN. “He had a high motor and it made a lot of success for him, and I like to think it’ll do the same for me. I think he sees a little bit of himself in me.”
Could we see a Clay Matthews on our hands? The Jets sure hope so. They’ve been searching forever under every rock and it’d be great for Donahue to be their guy.
While certainly there’s competition for the gig, no one has made their claim. The coaching staff already really likes him.
I like his size, 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, with solid speed. So why could Donahue be the one to watch out for?
Well when you’re evaluating small school prospects, the biggest thing to check off is domination of smaller competition. Twenty-five and a half sacks in two seasons at West Georgia scream that to me.
The Jets have a guy in Leonard Williams who opposing offenses have to gameplan around. If they can get an edge rusher who can keep offensive coordinators up at night, that’d go a long way to changing the image of the Jets.
Defense wins championships. General managers are separated by what they do in the later rounds, the Jets could have another steal on their hands for a long time to come.