Michael Sam is expected to be the first openly gay NFL player in history, as we are mostly well-aware of by now, and many teams have come-out--no pun intended--and endorsed Sam's potential presence in their locker room. Among those teams who have supported Michael Sam; the New York Jets, specifically Rex Ryan, the head football coach.Michael Sam is expected to be the NFL's first openly gay player.
Rex had this to say about Michael Sam potentially becoming a New York Jet:
I think he'd be welcomed. It'd be no different than any other player we have. One thing I know for sure is that you're going to have 53 different players and they're all different players, different religious beliefs, what they look like; height, weight, married, single, any of these. Everybody's different, but the main thing we talk about is respect in our locker room, and even though everybody's different, it's a respect thing. If the young man's a good football player and a good teammate; then that's all we ask. So he'd fit in just like the rest of our guys.
The reality of the situation is that this potential comparison is not about press, not about making headlines, and not about appeasing a community whose presence is felt throughout parts New York City and America is a whole, but Michael Sam to the New York Jets actually addresses a team need.
Michael Sam is a 6'2 260 pound defensive lineman who is now being labeled as a hybrid, caught between the web of being too slow to be a linebacker and too small to be a defensive end at the next level. Sam struggled in linebacker practices at the Senior Bowl, and didn't help himself with an underwhelming performance at the NFL combine. He was originally projected to be a mid-to-late round draft pick because of this, despite being named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in the premier college football conference. In my estimation he draws comparison to Elvis Dumervil of the Baltimore Ravens, who was a 4th round pick in his own right back in 2006 while graduating from Louisville.
Dumervil was an undersized defensive lineman in his own right at 5'11 260 lbs., yet like Michael Sam was a Consensus All-American, first team All-Conference, and actually had 20 sacks in his final season at Louisville. Despite all of this and a top 10 finish in the Heisman voting, Dumervil was selected 126th overall by the Denver Broncos, late in the fourth round, and has done nothing short of proved to be a steal ever since. Dumervil has converted to outside linebacker, and has racked up 73 sacks in his seven year career.
Now I'm not saying that Michael Sam will be that good, but this is a guy who can get to the quarterback as an outside edge-rusher when all is said and done. Can he do it with regularity? That is the question.
The New York Jets are in need of some depth because in this there will always be injuries, and in this league you will always need depth to succeed at the highest level. The Jets could also use more true pass rushers as it is expected that their secondary may be the weakest group they have defensively. Muhammad Wilkerson lead the team with 10.5 sacks last season, and Calvin Pace added 10 more, but that didn't stop the Jets secondary for failing to produce on several occasions.
The starting linebackers on the New York Jets roster--including age each one will be before the 2014 season is underway--would be as follows:
- OLB Quinton Coples, 6'6 280 lbs, age 24.
- MLB Demario Davis, 6'2 240 lbs, age 25.
- MLB David Harris, 6'2 250 lbs, age 30.
- OLB Calvin Pace, 6'4 265 lbs, age 33, turns 34 in October.
And other notables on this roster include:
- OLB Antwan Barnes; 6'1 250 lbs., age 29, will turn 30 in October.
- OLB Garrett McIntyre; 6'3 255 lbs., age 29, will turn 30 in November.
Calvin Pace is returning to New York on a 2 year deal worth $5 million after having a career year at age 33.
The entire New York Jets starting defensive line were Pro Bowl candidates last season, but they also need depth behind Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leger Douzable on the edges.
Yes Jet fan, I know Damon Harrison is the man in the middle and not Douzable, now shh.
Though age is not a factor into the equation at defensive end like it may appear to be at linebacker--Douzable is the oldest here, and is turning 28 next month; again you will always need depth in this league.
It seems as though Michael Sam will be moved to outside linebacker upon being drafted, and the New York Jets could use some true pass rushers and youth in that section of their defense. In fact I would argue that Sam could be the 6th best linebacker on this team today, and with this group aging, he may play a bigger role in 2015 as opposed to this season barring any major injuries.
*knocks on wood*
The bottom line is that Michael Sam will succeed and earn his playing time if he can get to the quarterback enough, provide a level of hustle that an NFL team needs from their outside linebackers, and overall just make plays. He might fall to the 5th round of the NFL draft because of the potential media circus that may be attached to his name because of his sexual orientation, and there will be questions that will pertain to whether or not he can handle New York's media circus, but from a football perspective he actually does provide something that the Jets do need; a youthful outside pass rusher who can provide depth, and be effective situationally in the NFL.