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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Gholston, Long and the 2008 defensive ends

By Mike Sando

Vernon Gholston's anticipated release from the New York Jets comes three years after the Ohio State defensive end dominated at the NFL scouting combine.

Gholston tied offensive lineman Jake Long for a combine-high 37 repetitions in the bench press. He clocked 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a 266-pound defensive end.

The Jets drafted Gholston sixth overall in the 2008 draft. They tried him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, but Gholston has made no impact. As Rich Cimini notes via ESPN Stats & Information, Gholston has none of the 3,267 regular-season sacks NFL players have collected since 2008.

In retrospect, the Seattle Seahawks were much better off selecting Lawrence Jackson even though Jackson was, by all accounts, a disappointment before the team traded him to Detroit. He had 6.0 sacks in 11 games, all as a reserve, for the Lions last season. Two other NFC West teams, St. Louis and Arizona, came out much better with defensive ends Chris Long and Calais Campbell, respectively.

The chart shows defensive ends NFL teams selected in the first three rounds of the 2008 draft. I limited the chart to college defensive ends expected to fill similar roles in the NFL. Two defensive tackles in that draft class, Red Bryant and Kentwan Balmer, wound up playing defensive end.

Some on the list -- Jackson, Derrick Harvey and Phillip Merling come to mind -- never projected as elite pass-rushers. Cliff Avril, the last defensive end listed, has the most sacks. Long is probably the best all-around defensive lineman on the list, and he is improving.