Maybin Set to Take Over at Rush Linebacker
By Arun Morace
With starting outside linebacker Bryan Thomas out for the year, the Jets have no choice but to put Aaron Maybin into his spot in the lineup. And based on his performance against the Ravens, he may be just what New York needs.
For years, the Jets have been getting older and slower at linebacker. The Jets entered 2011 with three of their four starting linebackers at age 30 or older. Their lack of speed has been showcased both this season, and in last year’s AFC Championship Game when a lack of pass rush and quarterback contain essentially cost the Jets the game against the Steelers. In the Jets’ first three games of 2011, without Maybin, they mustered a mere six sacks, only one of which came from the supposed premier pass rushers of a 3-4 scheme like New York’s, the outside linebackers. Tight ends and running backs, the players linebackers are supposed to cover, went rampant against the Jets defense, lowlighted by Dallas TE Jason Witten’s 100 yard receiving performance in Week 1, and Oakland RB Darren McFadden’s 171 yard rushing performance in Week 3. The Jets’ linebackers were struggling to hold up their end of what was once a strong defensive unit.
With a lack of production coming from the pass rushers, the Jets re-signed Aaron Maybin, perhaps ending his roller-coaster offseason. The 23-year-old Maybin started 2011 with the Buffalo Bills, who had made him the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, ahead of such stalwart linebackers as Brian Orakpo (13th overall to the Washington Redskins), Brian Cushing (15th overall to the Houston Texans) and Clay Matthews (26th overall to the Green Bay Packers). All three of those players have been named All-Pro at their position. Meanwhile, Maybin had yet to record even one professional sack. He entered training camp on thin ice, and after a poor showing in practice and an even poorer showing in the Bills’ first preseason game, he was cut.
The Jets swooped in to sign him almost immediately. Through three preseason games with New York, Maybin notched 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, a performance so impressive he survived the final roster cut down before the season started. But, a day later, Maybin was released. As Maybin idled in free agency through the first three weeks of the season, the Jets pass rush suffered. So the Jets brought him back into the fold for their prime-time matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Maybin immediately showed the Jets what they had been missing, notching several quarterback pressures, a forced fumble, and his first career sack. With Bryan Thomas going down earlier in the game, and now being confirmed “out for the season,” Maybin will have more chances to solidify his spot on the team, and maybe even give the Jets the pass rushing presence they’ve been missing this year. And while he’ll likely never be better than Orakpo, Cushing or Matthews, he may just be able to show that he belongs in the NFL.