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Taylor's Role Just Got Upgraded

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 11:10 AM

Taylor is now thrust back into a starting role....

http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/nfl/news/story?id=5507198


[b]Take a deep breath, New York Jets fans: The man you loved to hate -- Jason Taylor -- is now, quite simply, The Man.

And that should be a bit concerning.

With injured outside linebacker Calvin Pace (foot) expected to miss "a few weeks," according to Rex Ryan, the unofficial title of "No. 1 pass rusher" falls to Taylor, who has yet to show up in the preseason. If he were a no-name free agent, battling for a roster spot, he'd receive a pink slip off his performance Friday night against the Washington Redskins.

With Calvin Pace out, Jason Taylor is in. Jets fans better hope he's still got a few moves left.
In 37 defensive snaps, unofficially, Taylor engaged in actual contact only twice, not counting the play in which he was blindsided by a backup center named Kory Lichtensteiger. Taylor exerted less energy in the game than in one of his old "Dancing with the Stars" episodes.

Maybe the former Miami Dolphin has earned that right, having compiled a career resume that probably will put him in the Hall of Fame, but his old enemy/new team needs him to flick on the switch come Sept. 13 -- opening night. Pace probably won't be ready for the Baltimore Ravens, meaning Taylor goes from situational pass rusher to every-down player.

Most of the attention will focus on how Pace's absence will impact the pass rush, but one NFL personnel executive believes the Taylor-for-Pace change will be felt more in the running game.

"I don't think they'll take too much of a step back in terms of one-on-one pass rushing," the personnel executive said Saturday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "What really becomes a deficiency for them is the addition of Jason Taylor as a point-of-attack run defender.

"With Jason in the lineup, you'll be exposed in your edge run defense. Calvin Pace can set the edge, push tight ends back and play downhill. You won't see Jason do that stuff. He's more of a lateral player, more of a finesse player."

Despite Pace's production last season as a pass rusher (eight sacks in 12 games), the personnel executive believes Ryan and his defensive staff will be able to adjust because of their "tricked up" blitz packages.

Instead of relying on pass rushers to win one-on-one matchups, Ryan & Co. use elaborate blitz schemes, designed to create mismatches and unblocked rushers. They rely on scheme and team over individual talents. That should suit Taylor, who "doesn't have the elite speed he used to have," the personnel executive said.

In his last two seasons, the longtime Jets nemesis -- hated by New York fans -- has produced a total of 10 sacks, a dramatic decline from his days as one of the game's most prolific pass rushers. Getting old stinks; Taylor turns 36 on Tuesday.

The Jets saw enough in Taylor to sign him as a free agent, thinking he'd play about 75 percent of the snaps. But as Ryan said after losing to the Redskins, Taylor's playing time will be 100 percent until Pace returns. That raises serious questions about stamina.

"Sure, it takes a little bit of a toll ... but if you take care of yourself during the week, you'll have plenty of gas in the tank on Sunday," Taylor said.

Taylor and Pace were supposed to be the bookend rushers in the nickel package. Now what? Bryan Thomas is a better run defender than pass rusher, Jamaal Westerman is too green and Shaun Ellis too old. Maybe Vernon Gholston gets a shot. Maybe Ryan places a call to free agent Adalius Thomas, one of his former Ravens.

Ryan's problem will get bigger if he also doesn't have holdout cornerback Darrelle Revis, whose glue-like coverage allows the coaches to take chances with their blitzing. When Pace missed the first four games last season because of a league suspension, the Jets didn't miss a beat because Revis locked down star receivers Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Marques Colston in three of the games.

No Revis, no lockdown. Antonio Cromartie is a talent, but as he showed Friday night with some sloppy plays, he's no Revis.

So, in a crazy twist, the Jets turn their desperate eyes to Taylor, who prepares for his last tango.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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