This year, training camp and pre-season may not mean more to any veteran on the New York Jets than Vernon Gholston.
Yes, the Jets are counting on the next couple of exhibition games to sort out some personnel issues and establish chemistry. After all, they are counting on second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez to take a significant step forward from his rookie season and they must blend together new additions such as LaDainian Tomlinson into the offense. There is the assimilation of rookies such as Kyle Wilson and Vlad Ducasse to the mix and the return of All-Pro nose tackle Kris Jenkins from last year’s knee injury.
And of course, there is this whole matter of what to do with Darrelle Revis, whose holdout is entering its third week.
But Vernon Gholston is in crucial mode right now, the now defensive end seemingly on the cusp of his career. The former first round pick is now entering his fourth year in the league and Gholston has no more excuses. A former first round pick, Gholston was a defensive end at Ohio State who excelled at the NFL combine with a rare blend of speed and strength. His metrics showed potential to be a linebacker but Gholston never showed the propensity to make plays from the position, often a step slow and looking lost at his converted position of linebacker.
The Jets and Gholston hope the move back to his college position will lead him to forever shed the label of “bust.” Can I move to defensive end and coming off the edge finally make a star of Gholston?
"It's something I'm familiar with. Taking on the blocks, reading the blocking schemes, rushing the passer,” Gholston said of playing defensive end. “Those are things that suit my background, going back to college. To say I'm learning something new is not necessarily the case. Obviously the skill set needs to be refreshed and that's why we're here in camp."
Monday night’s preseason opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium will provide Gholston the chance to prove the critics wrong. He’s looked good this off-season, performing solidly in mini-camp and then during his two weeks at training camp. He looks at ease on the line, not having to worry about pass coverage or reads, simply running forward off that edge and making plays.
Tonight’s game against the Giants will give the Jets a glimpse at seeing if there is any hope at redeeming the player’s career.
“I think we put him now into a role where he can be more successful quicker,” head coach Rex Ryan said last week about the position switch.
“Quicker” is now for Gholston, who acknowledge not as much a sense of pressure to perform this year as a desire to get on the field and start living up to his billing as a former top 10 pick. Now in his third year in the league, the expectations are significantly higher for a player who has just 30 tackles in his first two NFL seasons and is still without a sack in his career.
During the pre-season last year, Gholston almost got that first sack. This year, the expectations are different.
"Last year, out there, I got a penalty sack,” Gholston said. “This year I'd like to get a real sack."
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012