New York Jets: LB C.J. Mosley feeling confident after return to MetLife

Donning a New York Jets jersey for the first time since October 2019, C.J. Mosley couldn’t hide his confidence.

It had been over 500 days since New York Jets fans got to see their team play a sanctioned football game at MetLife Stadium in person. Perhaps only an on-field attendee, Jets linebacker  C.J. Mosley, had to wait longer.

Mosley put on his New York uniform on Saturday night to partake in the Jets’ 12-7 preseason victory over the New York Giants. It was the first time his game day equipment had been worn since a Monday night game against New England in October 2019. Mosley helped the Jets’ strong defensive effort, one that held the Giants to 163 yards on the night, get off to a strong start.

Working next to newcomers Jarrad Davis and Hamsah Nasirildeen on the premier unit, Mosley rejected a Mike Glennon pass intended for Darius Slayton. Two plays later, Bryce Huff earned a seven-yard sack to force the Giants into a three-and-out after just 61 seconds of game time. The Jets (1-0) would get the ball at their own 36 after a punt and tallied a 30-yard field goal to go up 3-0 after the opening drives.

Mosley also appeared on the Giants’ second offensive possession, where he picked up two tackles, though one was erased by a Jets penalty. The Giants picked up two first downs, but the Jets limited the damage to 32 yards on seven plays, the last of which was a punt.

Despite relatively minimal work, it was hard for Mosley to hide his enthusiasm in the aftermath. The linebacker issued a foreboding warning to future visitors of East Rutherford that underestimate the Jets’ defense.

“If people come with that same mentality, they’re going to get their (butts) blown out,” Mosley said of those who expect the idea of “Same Old Jets” to continue this year, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “That’s 100 percent, whether we’re at MetLife or anywhere else. If they think there’s anything old about this Jets team, it’s not going to end well for them.”

Mosley will be working alongside several touted newcomers this season. The Jets made their pass rush a priority despite several young breakouts headlined by Quinnen Williams. Pressure artist Carl Lawson comes in from Cincinnati while Sheldon Rankins arrives from New Orleans. The revamped unit was on full display against the Giants, as the Jets took down Glennon and Clayton Thorson five times. Their last takedown becoming a safety when another sixth-rounder (Jonathan Marshall) took down Thorson in the end zone. Huff had two sacks on the night while undrafted rookies Hamilcar Rashed and Michael Dwuomfour also got involved in the tally.

Mosley is a bit of a stranger to New York himself. Signed to a five-year, $85 million deal during the 2019 offseason, Mosley was the last big ticket arrival of the Mike Maccagnan era. He has partaken in only two games since then, besieged by medical calamities of both a football and non-gridiron variety. The former Baltimore Raven and four-time Pro Bowler has appeared in only two Jets games over the last two seasons. Groin issues limited him to two games in 2019 while he opted out of last season’s proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thrown into action in the preseason opener, Mosley was going to take full advantage of any game snaps, even if they came in an exhibition contest. Mundane gameday tasks like getting to East Rutherford and even hooking up with the team during the pregame took on a whole new meaning after nearly two full years away from the field.

“You can never take this game for granted. Any time you step on the field you want to try and give it your all and take advantage of every opportunity you get,” Mosley said, according to team reporter Jack Bell. “Driving to the team hotel, that’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Going to the meetings at night, waking up in the morning and getting back to my routine. There was even a little traffic to getting to the stadium. I’m embracing everything.”

Time will tell if Mosley is a fit in what head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are trying to build through their reintroduction of the 4-3 set. Fate has given him every reason to believe that his New York tenure is cursed, but he’s defying the conventional metropolitan pessimism.

“(We have) an explosive D-line that’s going to get after it, especially when we get teams in second-and-long and third-and-long,” Mosley said, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “Even third-and-short, we’re going to get our defensive line trying to get after the opponent’s quarterback. I think we’re going to be a defense that’s going to make you try to throw over the top and we’re going to make you try to run the ball on us because if you don’t, it’s going to be a long day for your quarterbacks.”

“We’ve just got to make sure that we hold each other accountable every day when we go to practice, make sure we try to stay as healthy as possible…have the same mindset, same goal to win every game.”

Mosley and the Jets will return to preseason action on Saturday night, when they battle the Green Bay Packers on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Linebackers

new york jets, jarrad davis

Packed to the brim with potential, the New York Jets’ completely revamped linebacker corps must start producing on the field.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. The second half of the front seven segments features the linebackers…

C.J. Mosley, New York Jets
USA Today

How It Started

A lot of attention and hullabaloo has been dedicated to the Jets’ constant turnover at quarterback, but a similar discussion could be had at linebacker. The Jets have had several marquee names to fill the slots. They used their 2016 first-rounder on Darron Lee (passing on names like Will Fuller, Jaylon Smith, Chris Jones, and Xavien Howard). Breakout defenders either turned out to be flukes (Jordan Jenkins) or went elsewhere (Tarell Basham). A de facto in-season firesale saw another casualty (Avery Williamson).

Medical absences have taken a particularly dangerous toll and it puts the Jets in an awkward position when it comes to C.J. Mosley. The former Baltimore Raven is in a bit of an awkward spot. He’s not only a rare leftover from the Mike Maccagnan era, but the prior general manager left a lasting legacy via a huge contract. Through the guaranteed clauses in his five-year, $85 million deal, Mosley has made $21.5 million thus far…for two games in green so far.

Mosley’s medical woes shouldn’t be held against him. Football is a physical, violent game and Mosley was one of many who weren’t comfortable playing amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had every right sitting out last season. The timing was just rather unfortunate from a Jets standpoint, as he was expected to provide some stability and winning pedigree to the Jets’ beleaguered defensive corps. Blake Cashman is another one beset by medical absences. He rose up in Mosley’s absence but is entering a huge third season after three major shoulder surgeries.

In an appearance on a team podcast hosted by Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg, Mosley had no doubt that he was ready to make major contributions to the Jets’ road back to respectability, comparing his de facto two-year absence to the brief retirement of Rob Gronkowski. The tight end was a major part of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl endeavor after taking a year off.

“Yeah, I don’t have any doubts in myself…I’m here, so we’ll let the play do the talking,” Mosley said. “I’m happy to be back in the building with my teammates, to be around the locker room and the new energy. What we’re doing now is building a great foundation, setting this team on course to stack up wins and get to where we want to go.”

The Jets have completely started over, as all of their primary linebackers from last season have moved on. Jenkins failed to expand on an eight-sack season in 2019 and moved on to Houston with reliable depth option Neville Hewitt. Basham, coming off a career-best season on the outside, earned a two-year with the Cowboys while Harvey Langi returned to New England.

Arkansas running back Trelon Smith (22) stiff arms Auburn defensive back Jamien Sherwood (20) at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Auburn defeated Arkansas 30-28.

How It’s Going

Head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are noted practitioners of the 4-3 defense, which the Jets haven’t run since the Rex Ryan days. Free agent newcomer Jarrad Davis will be one of the most vital pieces of this transition…and, by association, one of the Jets’ most fateful additions as they prepared to pen what feels like the most hopeful chapters of their never-ending rebuild.

Davis is about to embark on the textbook definition of a make-or-break season. He inked a fully guaranteed one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Jets after four seasons in Detroit, who made him a first-round pick in 2017. His career began on a strong note: he earned All-Rookie honors and eight sacks over his first two seasons, but the past two seasons have been a struggle.

Problems in coverage have been particularly worrisome. Over the past three seasons, quarterbacks have earned a 113.8 passer rating when targeting Davis’ assignments. Davis’ hasn’t been a complete disaster…he’s still capable of raising pressure…but it wasn’t enough for Detroit to pick up his fifth-year option. how he performs on this prove-it deal could well determine the path for the rest of his career.

The downfall of Davis could be traced back to the respective departures of Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin following his rookie season. Austin ran the 4-3 in Detroit (and later Cincinnati, who refused to draft defensive scheme fits), picking up where Davis had left off from his college days at Florida under then-defensive coordinator (and current Georgia Tech head coach) Geoff Collins. His speed, on display through a sub-4.6 40 time could also be huge as the Jets seek to bolster their pass rush (fellow free agent Del’Shawn Phillips should also help check that box). Through his experience in the 4-3, Davis has a prime opportunity to not only reclaim the narrative on his NFL career but showcase his leadership skills.

In addition to the returns of Mosley and Cashman (each of whom may face make-or-break campaigns through no fault of their own), the Jets made a pair of interesting selections in the latter stages of the draft. Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen were each listed as safties, but the Jets almost immediately announced their intentions to turn them into linebackers. Sherwood, an Auburn alum, is a bit undersized for a linebacker but makes up for it with a wide wingspan and good coverage near the line of scrimmage. Florida State’s Nasirildeen could’ve been chosen during the first two days if not for a torn ACL from his junior season that limited him to two games last year. He gained a reputation as an aggressive hitter during his time in Tallahassee. An undefeated addition could wind up being undrafted outside rookie Hamilcar Rashed, who is two years removed a 14-sack season at Oregon State.

new york giants, jarrad davis

Are They Better Off?

On paper, there is a lot of potential in the Jets’ linebacking corps. But like many other areas on the team, it’s time to start capitalizing. There’s no use in holding Mosley and Cashman’s medical pasts against them. But if they’re ready to go, it’s completely fair to start asking them to contribute.

When it comes to the newcomers, they’re looking at the group with an eye on the future. Even if Davis fails to live up to his first-round billing, he could help the younger pieces learn the finer points of the 4-3 that figures to factor into their long-term future. The immediate action after the draftings of Sherwood and Nasirildeen shows that they have a plan for this group.

As we discussed in the defensive line portion, having a strong front seven and the pass rush that comes with it is going to be vital with a yearly pair of matchups with Josh Allen ahead for the next decade. Through these additions, the Jets bolstered both their pressure (Davis, Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins) and coverage (Sherwood and Nasrilideen). The names aren’t flash by any stretch, but the hopeful, hopefully game-changing, chapter of a perpetual rebuild has to start somewhere.

This linebacker group has both immediate intrigue (will Mosley and Cashman overcome their painful pasts?) and hope for the future. (Davis, Sherwood, Nasrilideen). They’ll certainly never be boring come Sundays.

Final Offseason Grade: B

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags