Five tackles, zero sacks, zero interceptions. Certainly, that is not what Vernon Gholston wanted his statline to read after five games in the NFL. After all, he was the sixth player chosen in April’s draft, handing him a boatload of expectations along with his $21 million signing bonus. There was hope that the speedy yet hulk-sized defensive end from Ohio State would provide a large return to the team’s pass rush. Following the disaster of 2007 which saw the Jets generate just 25 sacks, there was little argument over what failed the team last season. The Jets knew they needed to get tougher up front to put fear into opposing quarterbacks who all too often were left unscathed. It was a tall order for the Jets, but certainly grew even larger after the Giants revealed the methods of stopping Tom Brady and the Patriots’ explosive offense: They pressured Brady endlessly, sending him into the turf with almost every dropback. Certainly the Jets were hoping to do the same, and that’s where Gholston came into the situation.
But again, five games into a promising career, Gholston has not delivered. As rosy as the Jets want to paint it, they were surely hoping for more production from the sixth overall selection through five games. But as the Jets sit with a 3-2 record in those five contests, Gholston has not needed to develop into a force all so soon. Surely, he has two of his defensive teammates to thank. Welcome Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas.
Pace and Thomas have combined for eight sacks and many more quarterback knockdowns. Add in the fact that both have proved effective in pass coverage and it surely proves why the outside linebacker position went from a necessity to a luxury for the Jets in just a few short months. As Thomas exclaimed to reporters this week about Pace, “He can do it all. He can drop. He can rush. He can cover. He’s a versatile type of guy.”
With that being said, Gholston can thank both Pace and Thomas for taking the pressure off of his shoulders. Gholston has not needed to transform into that ‘do-everything’ player like those drafted above him in April have. The fate of 2008 Atlanta Falcons’ season surely rested on the arm of No. 3 pick Matt Ryan and Darren McFadden, the No. 5 selection, would have more than a minor say in how the Oakland Raiders would finish up this year. But the Jets’ pass rush has lived up to expectations, it has saved Gholston from the need to be an immediate impact on Sundays. As Pace voiced to reporters Friday, pressuring opposing quarterbacks has been a “collective” effort. The Jets’ defense has recorded 18 sacks and an average of 306 yards per game, ranking second and 11th in the NFL respectively.
“It’s one of those things when we all collectively came together without saying it,” Pace said. “Guys are sacrificing a good rush trying to help somebody else out.”
Gholston can look at those numbers with a smile because after all, it’s his turn to join the party next.