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Seeing Jason Taylor take the field as a Jet will probably be a lot like Ronald McDonald eating a Whopper. Taylor has spent his career as public enemy number one in the eyes of many Jets fans. He was a Pro Bowl performer for a bitter rival always with a quip about the Jets fan base. There have not been too many other instances where a player has used the media to target not an opponent but a group of fans for a rival. Now the same fans he trashed will be cheering for him.
The Jets had one of the fiercest pass rushes in the league in 2009. They, however, struggled to get to the quarterback without sending five or more. Calvin Pace did a solid job on one side, registering a career high 8 sacks in just 12 games. He really came on in the Playoffs with 17 quarterback pressures and 2 hits in 3 games.
Bryan Thomas was not as productive on the other side. Thomas does things well. He has developed into a good run defender and a solid coverage guy. There's a problem, though. We can praise Thomas' positive qualities all day. The fact remains the most important job of the guys who line up at outside linebacker in 3-4 sets and put their hand on the ground in the 4-3 is to get to the quarterback. Thomas is a below average pass rusher.
The Jets are not getting the same player who was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 or three All Pro first teams. Those saying Taylor is washed up and unproductive aren't making statements based on a solid foundation, though.
Taylor posted a solid 8 sacks last year. Unlike his teammate in Miami, Joey Porter, he was not a feast or famine player. Porter put up decent sack totals but did not consistently pressure the quarterback. Taylor's 20 pressures put him just outside the top ten in the league. Seven of the ten above him saw over 100 more snaps.
Rex Ryan loves to throw the kitchen sink at the quarterback. Having Taylor on the field will not change that. It just gives the team a better chance of getting to the passer since he can consistently win matchups. Rotating with Thomas should keep him fresh and productive.
The signing had a hidden benefit. It provided the Jets with a stopgap at outside linebacker. That freed them up to take Kyle Wilson. If Taylor was not on the roster, Gang Green might have felt more obliged to pass the player they liked better and grab a pass rusher like Jerry Hughes.
All of this makes the Taylor signing a game changer.