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The Early Line on the Linebackers: Depth Remains An Issue
By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
August 8th, 2003
If one of these three LB's get injured the Jets could be in trouble
If one of these three LB's get injured the Jets could be in trouble
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - When you tabulate all the seasons that Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones, and Sam Cowart have been playing linebacker in the National Football League, it amounts to a grizzly 30. Or 210 in dog years. Lewis, the elder statesman of the team, is entering his 13th season. Jones is embarking on his 11th season. Cowart, a veritable pup compared to his linebacking brethren, will compete in his sixth.

With James Darling's defection to Arizona this past offseason, a thin, unseasoned corps of reserve LB's got even thinner and unseasoned. The lone remaining holdovers, Jason Glenn and Khary Campbell, have made most of their contributions on special teams. Victor Hobson, the second round pick in this year's draft is, well, a rookie. After that, it's slim pickings, although Mark Brown, a rookie free agent from Auburn, has been getting rave reviews from the coaching staff and teammates alike for his toughness and athletic ability.

God forbid if an injury should befall one of the starters. It could be devastating a blow to the entire defensive unit.

However, coach Herman Edwards is not overly concerned with the linebacking depth. At least not publicly. He says he is more content with developing the young talent within the organization than going outside and plucking a veteran off the waiver wire.

"You have to go play," said Edwards during a break between Wednesday's double sessions. "There is nothing you can do. We have mature players and we have young ones that will become mature. You can't keep going to get mature players because then you do the same thing over and over. Young players have to play."

When asked about the development of both Glenn (third season, Texas A & M) and Campbell (second season, Bowling Green), Edwards, didn't offer glowing praise. But it was far from disappointing. It all boils down to getting plenty of reps and familiarizing themselves with the role of the LB and the nuances in the complex Cover 2 scheme.

"They are good special teams players," Edwards said. "They need to develop more into our nickel package. Khary and Jason are good athletes. They play well in space and in this league you need guys that can do that when you get spread out. The process for those two guys is to learn the system. They blink at time and are not sure and can't play at the speed you ask them to. The more they play and get used to things, they are going to help us win some games."

Hobson, who is built like a Coca Cola machine and hits like a Mack truck, has enjoyed some early success after a solid career at the U. of Michigan. His initial foray into the NFL was impressive as he made 10 tackles and posted a sack in a loss to Tampa Bay.

Edwards has been impressed with the results. So much so that early reports indicate Hobson will be the fourth LB in the regular linebacking rotation.

You can't argue with either Hobson's skills set or skills. He possesses very strong hands, can play both zone and man-to-man, and has an innate ability to line up over the tight end, perhaps the toughest thing to do for a linebacker, particularly a rookie.

Of course, it hasn't hurt that the Wolverines essentially played the same style of D Hobson has encountered with the Jets.

"He was very productive," Edwards says of Hobson's professional debut. "He played a whole lot and he got 10 tackles. He made some mistakes in the game, too. But that's the hardest position to play in our defense. There are so many adjustments that it is hard for a young linebacker to hone in right away."

While it's the job of linebacker coach Bob Sutton to bring Hobson up to speed, the rookie also credits the veteran influence that Lewis and Jones have had on his rapid development.

"They've been very helpful," says Hobson, the heir apparent to Lewis on the strongside. "Those are two guys that have helped me a lot since I've been here. They help me everyday. I'm just willing to learn."

If Hobson continues to progress at his current rate, the linebacking corps will have one less thing to worry about. As will Jets fans.