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The Jets' defense isn't off to a great start to the season to begin with, especially against the run, which is supposed to be their bread and butter. Now, they have to play without veteran OLB Bryan Thomas, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The Week Five game against the Patriots will be the first regular-season game Thomas has missed since 2004.
"We talk about 'Play like a Jet,' and he's very quietly lived up to all those attributes, loves football, tough, passionate, physical, productive," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine told reporters this week. "There's certain packages where we might have two or three guys kind of rotating through to take that spot, but that's a big hole."
Thomas could rush the passer — he had six sacks last season — and is strong against the run, in addition to being a veteran leader. He may be the least well-known of the Jets' linebacking corps, but he has been a stalwart for years.
"He's not a guy that makes flashy plays, but he's very consistent and durable. He has been a rock for them for a long time," said one daily team observer.
Fortunately for the Jets, third-year OLB Jamaal Westerman has seen more playing time this season, but that will be ramped up, as he is part of the equation to replace Thomas. Westerman is generally the first linebacker off the bench helping on third down, but as Pettine said, he will just be part of the equation.
"I think that position really has to be handled by committee. It would be easy to put Jamaal in there, but now all of a sudden with Jamaal being in a lot of our third-down groupings, now you're asking a player who hasn't played a lot of snaps to play virtually an entire game," he said.
ILBs Josh Mauga and Bart Scott both have experience rushing the passer and they can play in coverage, making them decent fits to help replace Thomas on certain plays. Recently acquired Aaron Maybin, who is a situational pass rusher, will also factor into the rotation, and could help spell Westerman, who will certainly see more snaps.
We heard the team likes Mauga's playmaking ability in coverage, and the Jets also have former CFL player Garrett McIntyre, although he mainly plays on special teams and will miss the Patriots game with a concussion.
The depth is there, but the Jets would much rather have Thomas as opposed to rotating younger players in his spot.