When it comes to pleasant surprises for the Jets in 2011, Aaron Maybin probably tops the list. Maybin was every bit as big of a Draft bust for the Bills as Vernon Gholston was for the Jets. He recorded zero sacks in his two years in Buffalo. He found new life with the Jets once Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan picked him up off the scrap heap. After being one of the final cuts at the end of an impressive preseason, he rejoined the Jets before Week 4 and led the team in sacks and forced fumbles.
The Jets put him in positions that suited his strengths. He was not asked to be a three down player. Maybin primarily was a speed rusher on passing downs. His job was just to run around linemen and get to the quarterback. At least half of his sacks were either coverage sacks or required him just to beat a running back, but that does not take away from what he did. Before Maybin arrived, the Jets were not even getting coverage sacks in the Rex Ryan era and were missing plenty of sack opportunities with a clear path to the quarterback.
There are two real questions for Maybin going forward. Can he put on some upper body strength, and can he develop some moves to disengage from blockers? What we saw in 2011 was probably his ceiling if he cannot do either. Pure speed rushers who are not strong enough to hold up at the point of attack in the run game can have some value in the NFL, but that value is limited. As nice of a surprise as Maybin was, he was nowhere to be found the last four weeks of the season. If he cannot improve his game in these key areas, his 2011 success will likely be a mirage.
The good news is that Maybin showed some signs that he is starting to work on some moves, one of which resulted in his key strip sack of Rex Grossman against the Redskins. He is certainly worth keeping around. If he keeps improving, maybe he can give the Jets more.