Florham Park, NJ – For Jets linebacker Jason Taylor, the last thing on his mind come Sunday is playing his long-time team, the Miami Dolphins. The linebacker, who has spent 12 of his 14 seasons in South Florida since being drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft, is more concerned about getting on the field more for the Jets.
Currently, Taylor seems to be an afterthought in the Jets rotation at linebacker. Through 12 games his stat line reads 29 tackles and four sacks, meaning that #99 is on pace for the lowest sack and tackle total in a full 16-game season of his NFL career. While Taylor was brought in specifically as a third down pass rusher, he is only sporadically being used outside of that specific package.
And that can lead to some frustration on Taylor’s part but also Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who admitted he didn’t utilize Taylor very much in the last game against New England.
“I’m not happy with how we used him last week. This guy is a great football player and we need to use him more. I think I was more disappointed in the plan of attack that we had,” Ryan told reporters on Thursday. “Obviously things changed when we had Jim (Leonhard) out, but he has to get more involved.”
Now playing against his old Dolphins team, a team that decided not to offer him a new contract this offseason, Taylor will have a chance to make a statement that he not only isn’t washed up, but that he deserves more snaps this season. Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, who in part made the decision to jettison the player, said that Taylor “Always has been a guy that can closeout games.”
And in the previous matchup against Miami in Week 3, Taylor had a sack for an eight yard loss in what turned out to be a 31-23 win for his new team.
“We’re 9-3. If I was inactive and we were 9-3, I’d still be happy we’re winning. It’s not about me. It’s about this team and our defense as a whole. Anywhere that I can plug in and help and help make plays or take the attention off somebody else or whatever I can do, I’m here to do,” Taylor said in the Jets locker room on Thursday afternoon. “With that being said, yeah, I do want to play. Everybody wants to play. If there was anyone in this locker room that didn’t want to be on the field, I’d be disappointed in that person. If I get more snaps, then great. I feel like the more snaps I get, the better I play.”
And much like Dancing With The Stars, Taylor skillfully sidestepped the issue of more playing time, simply saying that the team comes first. Earlier in the season, he estimates that he was on the field for 60 plays when he helped step in for the injured Calvin Pace. Now, his role has diminished as the season has gone on, but Taylor chose not to make an issue of it on Thursday afternoon.
“If I’m called to play 15, 20 plays because it’s a rotation of the groups we’re using, then so be it. I’m an employee - Rex is the head coach,” Taylor said. “ I do what he needs.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012