Two Jets linebackers who also contribute to special teams came up with gems that didn’t produce any points Saturday night against the Giants but still bode well for the “complementary football” that Rex Ryan has stressed the Green & White will and must play this year.
The first big play came from a young man who’s been no stranger to big plays since coming to the Jets a year ago. On a second-quarter Steve Weatherford punt, Aaron Maybin got leverage on wingman (and former Jet) D.J. Ware, leaned in on him, leaned in some more, and then swatted Weatherford’s punt.
Technically, it wasn’t a block because the ball crossed the line of scrimmage, traveling 21 yards. But the Jets had it at their 46, fine field position — until it was squandered seven plays later on Jayron Hosley’s TD return of a ark Sanchez interception.
“Yeah, that was my first block in the NFL,” the always “on” Maybin reminisced this week. “I had a couple in college, but I don’t really count any of that stuff. When you do things for the first time in the NFL, it’s basically like the first time you ever did it.”
He was hardly concerned that the block didn’t count, first off because it’s the preseason, but second of all because the play still fit into his own special mental category.
“I’m not a guy that’s really ever been interested by stats anyway. I’m motivated by game-changing plays and the opportunity to make those. When you look at blocked punts, sacks, forced fumbles, turnovers — those are game-changing plays right there, and those are the kind of plays I pride myself on being able to make for this team.”
Maybin got Ware’s attention on that play, and he also said he lit up the eyes of 207-pound Giants corner Prince Amukamara when he lined up as a 250-pound flyer for the Jets’ punt-cover team.
“It was interesting to see the cornerback’s face when he realized it was a linebacker lined up over top of him. I could hear his teammates yelling, ‘C’mon, Prince, jam him, jam him.’ Try it if you want to,” Maybin said.
The other LB who also does special duty is Josh Mauga, who in fact contributed with a tackle of Hosley when he was a punt-returner, bringing him down near midfield for a zero-yard return late in the first quarter. But Mauga’s sudden impact occurred on defense in the fourth quarter when he came roaring up the middle on third-down to plant Giants QB David Carr for a 7-yard sack.
“Oh, gosh, I love it,” Mauga savored the hit all over again after the game. “I was just trying to be like Dave.” As in David Harris, who’s been doing triple duty lately playing the run, moving backward in pass defense and forward to apply blitz pressure.
“This year I’m a lot more comfortable being out there on special teams and on defense,” the third-year man out of Nevada said. “I understand the schemes, I can recognize what the offense is trying to do, and it helps me in the long run to play faster and hopefully make plays.”
It was Mauga’s second sack as a Jet, both coming in the preseason, to go with his interception in Game 2 vs. Jacksonville last season. He’s shown he can make a play if called on, but the numbers are still the numbers, and Mauga’s battling for depth chart position at ILB with Nick Bellore and rookie Demario Davis. Is there room on this year’s Jets for him?
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I just leave that up to the coaches and the organization. I just try to control what I can control, and that’s just going out and taking advantage of my opportunity and showing them that I can be a big factor whether on special teams or the defense.”
Both Mauga and Maybin could get a shot at making a big play or two before a national TV audience on Sunday night when the Jets take on the Panthers and consensus Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. And Mauga has a different take on the prospect of chasing the 6’5″, 248-pound Newton around the MetLife pitch.
“I think it’ll be a great experience,” he said. “I had Colin Kaepernick on my team in college and they’re pretty similar. It’ll be cool to see what Newton’s all about.”
The 6’4″, 230-pound Kaepernick has already made a Top-10 play this season when he took off and galloped 78 yards for a TD in the 49ers’ preseason-opening win over the Vikings. If he taught Mauga anything while the two were at Nevada, we could see it Sunday night vs. Newton and the Panthers.
And any successes there will go a long way toward helping Mauga have a pregame reunion with Kaepernick when the Niners come calling on the Jets on Sept. 30.
It’ll all be about the big plays, wherever and whenever they can be made.
Open Practices Resume Tonight
The Jets will open the doors to MetLife Stadium to their fans this afternoon for this evening’s practice, which is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
This practice begins the final week of open practices for fans before the Jets shut the doors and hunker down to get ready for the home stretch toward the Sept. 9 season opener vs. Buffalo.
The Jets’ practices at the Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., on Thursday and Friday are also open to the public. Both workouts are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. and to run until about 3 p.m.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Colin Kaepernick, Giants, Jayron Hosley, Josh Mauga, Steve Weatherford
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