For the first time as New York Jets head coach, there’s a degree of uncertainty about Rex Ryan‘s defense. It’s not an indictment on Ryan’s coaching abilities as much as it’s a reflection of the personnel on the Jets roster.
There may not be a position group on the Jets’ roster that will see a more dramatic overhaul this year than the outside linebacker spot. Both longtime veteran starters, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, are gone.
Thomas spend his entire 11-year career in New York, Pace the past five seasons. Now, neither one of them will be wearing a Jets uniform in 2013 after new general manager John Idzik deemed them both expendable.
As of this writing, newly-signed Antwan Barnes and 2012 holdover Garrett McIntyre would probably be projected first on the depth chart. But that doesn’t mean much four months before the start of the regular season.
However, there is another outside linebacker on the Jets roster, who despite being 26 years old with only 47 career NFL snaps to his name, could be a sleeper candidate to make a serious impact in Ryan’s defense in 2013.
Outside linebacker Ricky Sapp is not exactly a household name, but he’s got a fan in his head coach. If the former Clemson Tigers star can stay healthy, he could earn a shot at serious playing time, or even a starting job.
Sapp was once a heralded college prospect until multiple knee injuries hurt his stock, causing him to fall to the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Even after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, he couldn’t get on the field.
Eventually he found his way to the Jets, and Rex Ryan is eager to give him a chance to show what he can do.
For a guy with zero career tackles three years after being drafted, it appears that Sapp will be given a serious chance to win a starting outside linebacker job this season, after getting his first real NFL action last year.
If Ricky Sapp can stay on the field, he’s shown some legitimate signs that he can help Rex Ryan win games this season, even if he doesn’t have much in-game experience. If you look at the game tape, you can see that.
Steve Bateman of TheJetSet.biz showed us just that, as he broke down the game film of Sapp’s play in order to find out how Sapp faired as a pass rusher, in run defense and even dropping back in coverage.
In his time on the active roster, Sapp demonstrated that at the very least, he is still an intriguing prospect with legitimate potential, if he can continue to develop. Injuries are his biggest enemy right now, not lack of ability.
Can Ricky Sapp be a secret weapon for Ryan and the Jets? It remains to be seen. But don’t be surprised to see him get a serious look in training camp. He’s good enough, and now he has to earn the chance to prove it.