The 2018 Jets have some promising young pieces and intriguing veteran newcomers, but will all these additions be enough to break a seven-year playoff drought? I’ll be revealing my Top 20 players every weekday for the next four weeks.
The list is made up of the 20 players who I believe will make the most impact for Gang Green this season. Past accomplishments don’t guarantee you anything. This is about who will have the best 2018 campaign. We’re not going chalk here. This countdown is filled with surprises.
No. 20: Steve McLendon
Position: Defensive tackle
Age at the start of the regular season: 32
2018 Salary Cap Charge: $3.125 million (Final year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract. Unrestricted free agent in 2019).
2017 Season in Review:
McLendon was one of the most underappreciated and efficient players on a defensive line in flux. The veteran finished second in run tackles for no gain or loss among interior defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. Only Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett had more than McClendon’s 14. His 12.8 percent run-stop percentage (31 run stops across 242 run snaps) ranked fourth among 83 qualified defensive tackles, per PFF. The Jets finished tied for 10th in yards per run attempt (4.0). McLendon’s impact against the run was felt despite playing in only 43.64 percent of the Jets’ defensive snaps. He finished with 47 combined tackles, 15 total pressures and 1 1/2 sacks in 16 games last season.
McLendon is the oldest member of Todd Bowles’ defense (and second oldest on our countdown). His leadership has been invaluable during the team’s rebuilding phase. Although 6-3 and 310, McLendon isn’t the behemoth that Damon Harrison used to be in the trenches for Gang Green, he’s made his presence felt replacing Snacks the past two seasons. Bowles will likely use a 1-2 punch at nose tackle with McClendon and Mike Pennel again this season. McLendon still has enough juice to make a difference in his ninth season. The former undrafted free agent will also mentor the influx of younger defensive linemen, including third-round pick Nathan Shepherd. The Jets made a wise choice adding McLendon via free agency two years ago. His third season might be his last with Gang Green, but it was a wise investment.