‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
When you tune in to Sunday’s Jets-Bills game, you may want to keep a close eye on the outside linebacker who stands up at the edge of Mike Pettine’s 3-4 front.
That would be Aaron Maybin. And things might get awfully interesting rather quickly at that spot, especially on passing downs.
You see, Maybin has every reason to up his three-sack total against the Bills. They were the ones who cut him following two sackless seasons after Buffalo made him the 11th pick overall in the 2009 draft.
Not that they used him properly. They took a 21-year-old kid who left Penn State two years early and stuck him on the line, an undersized defensive end in Buffalo’s 4-3 alignment. That didn’t quite work out, and they finally cut him this year.
The Jets picked him up, cut him out of training camp, and then re-signed him after the Week 3 loss to the Raiders. They stood him up as a pass-rushing linebacker in the 3-4, and off he went. Maybin, nicknamed “Mayhem” because of how Penn State coach Joe Paterno once mispronounced his name, is now the Jets’ biggest surprise.
And in time, he could become the Jets’ most valuable defensive player.
Rex Ryan is already saying they need to get the 6-foot-4, 228-pound pass rusher on the field more as the Jets try mightily to improve on a stuttering 4-3 start. Of course, unless they move Maybin to the other side on first and second down, that could cut into Calvin Pace’s snaps, and that’s the last thing Ryan probably wants to do.
But there’s no doubt Maybin is a player, and a hitter, having forced three fumbles to go along with his team-high tying sack total. But even Ryan didn’t quite see that at first, given his initial reluctance to allow him to survive the final camp cuts.
So here he is, producing in a spot pass-rush role, looking for more time. He can make a great case for himself by becoming a force against the 5-2 Bills, the AFC East co-leaders with the Patriots.
It won’t be easy. Opponents have sacked the elusive Ryan Fitzpatrick just nine times, and the Bills have kept teams off-balance through a strong running game behind the out-of-nowhere Fred Jackson.
It won’t help that the Bills just knocked the stuffing out of the Redskins behind a 21-of-27, 262-yard, two-touchdown passing game. The Bills head into this one full of confidence.
Meanwhile, the Jets come off a bye, potentially rusty after the six-day vacation Ryan granted them after their comeback win over San Diego.
But there are those 16 takeaways that tied the Jets for the league lead going into Sunday. And Maybin’s forced fumbles have helped.
Meanwhile, with playmaking DL Mike DeVito due to come back this week — he didn’t practice Monday, but Ryan said he’s optimistic about him — the pass rush should be as strong as ever. And that means Maybin will be on display.
This is a tough one in an opposing stadium, one the Jets need for credibility heading into the New England game. And Maybin, looking to make his homecoming a nasty one, might be just the guy to look to in a key spot.
Will Maybin stick it to his former team? Be heard in the comments below…