c.j. mosley
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Mosley has had a great first year under Robert Saleh’s watch.

Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley was returning to a new environment back in the spring, even if he was with the same team.

Prior to his opt-out from the COVID-ridden 2020 season, Mosley briefly worked under an Adam Gase-led coaching staff that included a troubled defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams in 2019.

And then, following the opt-out, Mosley came back to Florham Park as a new head coach (Robert Saleh) and defensive coordinator (Jeff Ulbrich) were arriving. A new system was in place, new faces were in town, and a different type of energy was in the air.

It was more than just an average return — there were various layers to Mosley’s homecoming.

The veteran has been a consummate professional through everything though, and his head coach has taken notice.

“C.J. is awesome. You guys know how I feel about C.J. I know everyone saw that he was voted Team MVP, but I’ve made a comment before that he’s an All-Pro player and an All-Pro human,” Saleh told Brian Costello of the New York Post and other media members Wednesday. “He’s one of the more thoughtful individuals. I think his locker room presence is phenomenal, his leadership is phenomenal, when he speaks, everyone listens, even though he doesn’t really speak that much. Just been a pleasure.

“For a guy who’s accomplished so much in his career, to have a new staff come in here and ask him to lose 20 pounds and he does it. To ask him to show up to OTAs and he does it. To ask him to adjust the way he’s played linebacker his whole career, he does it and he’s having a heck of a season. Not because of coaching, but because he’s an unbelievable football player and he works so hard at it. Credit to him and everything. He deserves every accolade he gets and I’m really happy he’s here.”

Some may have wondered if Mosley was ever going to return to the team that signed him to a five-year, $85 million contract prior to the 2019 season. A lingering groin injury caused C.J. to miss all but two games during his inaugural campaign with Gang Green prior to his year-long 2020 absence. Yes — just two total games in as many years.

But his eventual 2021 return was crucial for a Jets defense that had added various new faces — the likes of linebacker Jarrad Davis and rookie linebackers Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen — last offseason. Mosley has been a mentor to the first-year players all while notably producing. With the Jets’ season finale against Buffalo on deck, Mosley has recorded a career-high 155 combined tackles (in 15 games).

New York’s defense has yet to impress many in what’s been an issue-filled 2021 campaign; the Jets are last in both total yards allowed and points allowed. But the group is still young and needs to develop — in order to do so, the unit requires a veteran staple to guide the novice counterparts moving forward.

Mosley must be that staple.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.