I've been watching a lot of tape on Mauldin over the last week and I have come away so impressed that I've convinced myself that he can be a game-changer in year one. Louisville didn't exactly have an abundance of elite talent on their team in 2014 despite going 9-4 on the season. However Mauldin was always in and around the football on a consistent basis and he is exactly what we need to re-energize our at time anemic pass-rush.
I'm not going to go as far to say that he has flown under the radar, as that is simply not true. We have covered his background extensively here and others have done the same. We have spoken about his ability to navigate his way through a tough childhood to come out the other side as an NFL player. We've spoken about his time in college and his high character, but what we haven't talked about a great deal, is his ability to help the Jets in year one.
The Jets outside linebacker position is a little bit of a void at the moment. We have converted lineman Quinton Coples occupying one spot, and I still persist that we'll never see his true potential until he plays almost exclusively on the defensive line. At the other position we have veterans Calvin Pace and Jason Babin and a lot of unproven young talent, players like Trevor Reilly, undrafted fan-favorite Julian Howsare and almost impossible to spell Ikemefuna Enemkpali. is there talent in that group? Absolutely. However Mauldin may be the most ready to contribute straight away.
I had appreciated his pass rush before going back to the tape. However now I appreciate it even more. He finds the ball quickly, and he makes tackles look silly with his over arm move and pushing on the inside shoulder. His awareness and recognition is off the charts. He diagnoses the run quickly and shuts off the lane, he's tough and physical and absolutely relentless in pursuit. If he can't get to the QB, his arms are up in the lane, making it difficult for QB's to get a clean look at their target. When you put his awareness capability in with his straight line speed, you have a player capable of caushing havoc as a pass rusher from the get-go. He'll need to work on his coverage skills and his lack of refinement with playing with leverage kept him out of the 2nd round, but he has so much potential to contribute right now and be a starter early in his career.
In a three year career at Louisville he totaled 31.5 tackles for a loss and I'm surprised it wasn't more. His route to a starting spot is wide open with the age of Babin and Pace and with the aggressive nature of the head coach, he'll get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer in year one. It's important to look at Leonard Williams as a 1st round pick and substituting for a suspended Sheldon Richardson. it's also important to look at Devin Smith as that deep threat we haven't had in years. However I wouldn't sleep on Mauldin making a massive contribution in year one. With Wilkerson ,Richardson (when he is back), Harrison and Williams eating up offensive lineman, there are going to be some open lanes for the backers. With his recognition and awareness skills, Mauldin is going to pick them up quickly.