Wooden, the Jets assistant director of player personnel, talked with Mangini about his own playing career at Syracuse. Wooden told Mangini that he remembered the exact moment during his red shirt freshman season when everything just clicked.
The coach used the story as a way to illustrate the progress of first-round draft pick Vernon Gholston, the rookie linebacker the Jets selected sixth overall last spring.
“Everybody has that moment where the clouds kind of drift away, the sun comes out, and you can just start playing,” Mangini said.
The coach didn’t say that Gholston has experienced that sort of epiphany on the pros. Gholston has compiled 11 tackles this season, far fewer than the number fans expected back in April. But Mangini sees positive signs where others may not. “He’s made a lot of progress,” Mangini said. “He’s played most consistently on special teams, and he’s improved the most in that area. Defensively, it’s still a work in progress.”
Mangini said Gholston’s performance on defense last week against Tennessee was his best this season.
“He didn’t get an overwhelming amount of opportunities, but the opportunities he did get, I thought he did a good job with,” Mangini said.
Gholston missed most of the Jets mini-camps this off-season while finishing the semester, per N.C.A.A. rules, at Ohio State. He also switched positions, moving from a college defensive end to outside linebacker in the Jets’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
Mangini saod that he set no expectations for Gholston’s progress. He listed other linebackers who took time to develop, among them Willie McGinest, Roosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi, three players who spent time with Mangini’s former team, the New England Patriots.
The biggest difference for Gholston, Mangini said, is that the Jets game plan for each opponent individually. Other teams run the same plays, make the same calls, but the Jets change those from week-to-week.