Let’s rewind and pretend the past two seasons didn’t happen, back to when C.J. Mosley was the star linebacker the New York Jets just signed in free agency.
The former Baltimore Ravens MIKE-backer was a Pro Bowler in four out of his first five NFL seasons with over 575 combined tackles, 8.5 sacks and 14 turnovers forced.
A younger linebacker off to a similar start to his NFL career is San Francisco 49ers MIKE, Fred Warner, who grew in Robert Saleh’s defense from 2018-20.
Things didn’t go as planned for general manager Mike Maccagnan when he spent big money on Mosley, but this new regime could be the fresh start the linebacker needs to start over.
Since he’s only played in two games as a Jet and factored in one, you might as well consider Mosley a 2021 offseason addition because he hasn’t contributed during his first two years. Especially when you take into account that he’s joining a totally new scheme.
He won’t show up on the transactions logs or the offseason reports from analysts, but Mosley is a dangerous new weapon on the defensive side of the football. If Coach Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich can harness his true potential, Mosley can act as a catalyst for this unit’s turnaround in 2021.
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People Are ‘Sleeping on C.J. Mosley’
The Jets linebacker caught up with Ethan Greenberg and Eric Allen after minicamp on The Official Jets Podcast and told the team reporters that there’s “not too much of a difference” being in 4-3 compared to 3-4.
As Mosley has stated in the past, every player finds themselves in every defensive formation at some point and time. He reiterated that it’s just about “knowing your job and doing your job to the highest expectation.”
Saleh’s scheme not only seems to work well with its linebackers, but it also seems to help them master their craft.
Warner was a third-round pick in 2018, now he’s an All-Pro that’s considered one of the top linebackers in the NFL. Similarly, veteran Kwon Alexander and fifth-rounder Dre Greenlaw have elevated their game under Saleh.
This 4-3 look stems from Pete Carroll and Monte Kiffin, but it became famous at the pro-level with Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.
Bobby Wagner has been the Seahawks MIKE since 2012. The former second-round pick is probably the most consistent middle linebacker in the sport and has six All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts.
This system rewards intelligent, instinctual leaders like Mosley, and the Jets coaches are experts on it.
Saleh and Ulbrich met each other in Seattle learning under the legendary Coach Carroll in 2011, so they’re both students of this defense. The only difference was that Saleh ended up with Mike LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan, while Ulbrich joined Carroll-disciple Dan Quinn in Atlanta.
At the end of the podcast interview, Allen asked Mosley if “people are sleeping on him” and I believe they are.
The linebacker has looked rejuvenated off his two-year hiatus and entering his age-29 season, it’s not unreasonable to think that the MIKE could have his first All-Pro campaign in Saleh’s advantageous scheme.
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Jets Are ‘Building a Great Foundation’
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Mosley told Greenberg and Allen when asked what it feels like to be back on the football field.
He continued on to say that the Jets are “building a great foundation,” one that can “stack up wins and get to where we all want [them] to go.”
The linebacker room in particular has a ton of fresh faces. Excluding Mosley who hasn’t really played, the only LB that’s been on the Jets for multiple seasons is 2019 fifth-round pick, Blake Cashman.
Mosley fielded questions about the inexperience and rookies like Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen, noting the roster’s “eagerness to learn.”
“I feel like we have a lot of raw talent in our linebacker room,” responded the MIKE, saying the mentor role is important to him because “you’re only as good as your weakest man.”
Mosley plans to help Ulbrich mold these young prospects into “BMFs,” which is apparently the new mantra for this Jets linebacker core. The veteran told the reporters that they’ll “let [their] play do the talking,” so that fans can determine what that acronym stands for.
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