It may not have been noticed in the exciting win, but Vernon Gholston was inactive on Sunday. If the coaching staff does not believe he can be of use at this point of the year, his 2008 season is probably shot. The fact that he went from the active roster to off it suggests he is regressing. Any hope of Vernon ever living up to his sixth selection hype lies in 2009 and beyond.
Gholston missed early rookie practices because of an NFL rule that prevents drafted underclassmen from participating. This is silly because seniors drafted hypothetically would still be in the middle of their academic schedules. However, the reality is that training for the Draft is a full-time job for most players, who leave school behind. It may be grasping at straws, but missing these workouts may have put Vernon behind in the learning curve. He has struggled to adapt to rushing the quarterback with his hand off the ground. Lamarr Woodley has gone from a decent situation pass rusher into one of the game's best in between his first and second seasons. Manny Lawson of San Francisco looked as lost as Vernon early in his career and has at least turned into an adequate situational rusher.
His lack of development at outside linebacker is still disappointing. He was better equipped than most defensive ends drafted into this scheme to adapt to the league. While a defensive end at Ohio State, he played the Leo position in which he occasionally dropped into pass coverage, one of the responsibilities of the 3-4 outside linebacker.
In the end, the Jets need Gholston to make a big leap in 2009. The pass rush has tailed off in recent weeks. While Calvin Pace has held up his end of the bargain, Bryan Thomas has cooled off mightily from a hot start. His play as of late has been as nonexistent as his play in 2007. At this point, we can assess that Thomas is consistently inconsistent. The Jets need a feared rusher to line up opposite Pace. Gholston is the perfect man for the job. Pace has the bulk and run stopping ability to man the strong side. What the Jets need on the weak side is a fast and athletic sack artist, something Vernon was supposed to be. After last spring's spending spree, the money will probably not be there for a Terrell Suggs. The team also would be unlikely to invest another high Draft pick and more money in the position for the second straight year. If the Jets are going to build an elite pass rush in 2009, either Gholston will need to dedicate himself this offseason or Marques Murrell would have needed to fool the Eagles for cutting him, the other 30 teams for not picking him up, and the Jets for not giving him action. Gholston is a better bet.
While the rest of the Jets are looking to Seattle with a division title in sight, Vernon Gholston can only look to 2009.