Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Nil. Nix. However you want to say it, that’s exactly how many sacks Vernon Gholston has in his 3 year NFL career with the Jets. To put it into perspective, I have the same amount of sacks in the NFL as he does. Though they have not confirmed yet, the Jets may be cutting their losses with the former 6th overall draft pick in the 2008 draft. Apparently they are giving up hope that he’ll turn the corner and realize the potential expected of such a high draft pick. But before you start saying to yourself “why would I want this monumental bust on my team?”, let’s consider a few things:
Gholston didn’t even start playing football until his sophomore year of high school. Playing at Ohio State, he was used as a combination of LB and DE and moved around in formations quite a bit. In 2004, his freshman year, he only played sparingly and didn’t record a single tackle. In 2005, he injured his hand in the beginning of the year and missed the rest of the season. In 2006 he finally played his 1st full season and performed well in notching 8 sacks. In 2007, his senior year, he had a breakout year and recorded 14 sacks and 15.5 TFL’s (tackles for loss). His senior year, along with a combine performance that showed extreme athleticism that left scouts drooling, propelled him into the top 10 most desired players of the draft that year.
He was drafted by Eric Mangini and was expected to play OLB in a 3-4 defense. Mangini left after his rookie year and Rex Ryan took over. Rex implemented his version of a 3-4 defense which was much different than what Mangini ran. Rex had him back and forth between OLB and DE the past 2 seasons as he was trying to find the best way to utilize him. This past year he was supposed to go back to his “natural” position as a 4-3 defensive end. But this apparently did not work either and have left the Jets frustrated.
Furthermore, there have been rumors in the past that Vernon Gholston uses (or has used) steroids but that has never been proven. Teammate Calvin Pace (and possibly others) also questioned his desire for the game. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Pace as he was discussing Gholston (full article here):
“The thing is with Vernon, he’s the type of person where he’s got the same demeanor every day,” Pace said. “If something is funny, he’s got the same demeanor. If something’s bad, he’s got the same demeanor. So, I always was like, ‘Man, it’s just hard to read him.’ Then I’m thinking like, well, ‘Does he like to play?’ “Because everybody plays for different reasons, whether it’s for money or fame, whatever. But you play for something. I know he likes to play. He takes notes, he watches film.”
If you take into consideration his late start to playing football and the fact that he was moved around between multiple positions in college and the pros, could it be that he really is still “learning”? Could it be that he hasn’t been able to become comfortable in a scheme yet and just “let loose”? He has yet seemed to settle into 1 position for consecutive years and has changed defensive schemes as well.
Enter Jim Washburn, the defensive line coach who just last year worked wonders with another former 1st round pick in Jason Babin. Babin was considered a disappointment and had played for 4 different teams in the previous 4 years before meeting Washburn with the Titans last year. As you probably have heard, Babin proceeded to have a pro-bowl year after collecting 12.5 sacks last season. He credits all his success to Jim Washburn and has publicly stated his desire to come to Philly just to be under his tutelage again.
Washburn is regarded by many people in the NFL as the best at what he does. Can he work his magic with Gholston? Can he make chicken salad out of chicken….well, you get the drift. It is a fair question. This would be a low risk, high reward type of situation - a true Philadelphia Eagles special. If he doesn’t pan out they could just easily cut him during the pre-season, no harm no foul.
If he just doesn’t have the “fire” in him to play football then no amount of teaching will ever fix that. But if all he needs is to focus on one position (just rushing the passer from a 4-3 front) and has a tremendous teacher that will simplify the game for him, I would be willing to take a chance on him. What is there to lose?