With their last pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets finally decided to do something about their pass rush, selecting Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly (9, above). Reilly is an interesting player, because he will be a 26 year old rookie due to a two year Mormon mission he took in college. Reilly also dealt with a torn ACL he suffered at the end of his junior season, but he played in every game as a senior.
Reilly was able to overcome the injury and the layoff to become very productive as a senior, recording 8.5 sacks. Unlike fellow rookie IK Enemkpali, Reilly is a true 3-4 outside linebacker who is experienced in the scheme. At 6’5″, 245 lbs, Reilly has excellent size, and he displayed solid athleticism at the combine with a 4.65 40 time and 26 reps on the bench. If he was four years younger and had never blown out his knee (or if even one of those things was true), Reilly would have gone a lot higher.
Reilly is a blue collar linebacker, with plenty of toughness and physicality to play at the NFL level. He has some solid pass rushing moves, but he will never develop into an elite pass rusher. However, he is versatile enough to hold up against the run, play either strong or weakside linebacker, and put his hand on the ground as an end in nickel packages. That versatility will be a huge help to his chances of making the team. Most importantly, however, Reilly will have to make a major impact on special teams to have a real shot at being on the final roster.
He will be in a battle with Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre, Jermaine Cunningham and Enemkpali to make the team, and at most the Jets will take three of those players. If Reilly is going to unseat one of the veterans, he is going to need a very impressive preseason. Reilly is a hard working player who is willing to do whatever it takes, as evidenced by the fact that Rex Ryan already told him to tone it down in practice lest he hurt someone. Reilly has been through a lot in his life, including the loss of his brother as a child and the diagnosis and subsequent remission of kidney cancer in his daughter, so the challenge of making an NFL team is nothing to him.
Although Reilly is a feel good story, the cold reality of the NFL is that he won’t make the team unless he earns it. He has that chance, and Reilly will likely end up somewhere between numbers 52 and 55 when the Jets pick their 53 man roster. If he wants to be on the right side of that equation, special teams must be where he makes his biggest impact as a rookie.