Tough break for Bryan Thomas

October, 4, 2011
When the Jets decided to part ways with Shaun Ellis, the title of "Longest-Tenured Jet" was handed to Bryan Thomas, a first-round pick in 2002. A few weeks ago, I was talking with Thomas about his time with the team, and I asked him to name his fondest memory.

"It hasn't happened yet," he said, intimating he was reserving that memory for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Thomas probably isn't going to realize that dream with the Jets. He's out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, and the timing couldn't be worse because he'll be a free agent after the season. He will be 33 next June, and it seems unlikely that he'll return to the Jets, who probably will be looking to add some youth at outside linebacker.

It's too bad. Even though he never developed into the pass rusher they expected, Thomas is an under-rated player, a tough, blue-collar guy who does the dirty work on defense, as the coaches like to say. He's as durable as they come, having missed only three games in his career. He was injured Sunday night on a fluke play; he was pass rushing on RT Michael Oher when he Achilles' gave out.

Thomas won't be easy to place. Jamaal Westerman stepped in for him against the Ravens, but Rex Ryan made it clear Monday he wasn't going to hand the permanent job to Westerman, who hasn't excited the coaches. Ryan also mentioned ILB Josh Mauga as an option, but Mauga (6-foot-1, 245) is undersized to play OLB in a 3-4 base. Aaron Maybin? Probably not; he's a situational pass rusher.

"They need someone," an opposing personnel executive said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "You're seeing now when they lose starters, their lack of depth is showing."

The Jets will have a roster opening when they place Thomas on IR. Here's a thought: What about former Patriots OLB Tully Banta-Cain? They brought him in a few weeks ago and, according to a source, they've been in touch with him. We all know how GM Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan like to pick up players from teams they're preparing to play. (Andrew Sendejo, anyone?) Adding an ex-Patriot the week of a Jets-Patriots game is straight from the "Border War" handbook, the chapter entitled, "Methods of Gamesmanship."

Knowing Tannenbaum, he'll probably also check into Seahawks LB Aaron Curry, the former No. 1 pick reportedly being shopped. Curry was the fourth overall pick in 2009, one spot ahead of QB Mark Sanchez.

Chances are, the Jets will adjust their scheme to compensate for Thomas' loss. Ryan mentioned the possibility of using more 4-3 looks, using one OLB (say Calvin Pace or Westerman) as a DE or simply putting another DE on the field (maybe Ropati Pitoitua) to join Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha on a four-man line.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is a creative coach, and he probably will create different packages for different situations. Technically, the Jets are a 3-4 team, but they play a lot of 4-3 anyway, so it wouldn't be a major transition.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter



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