Aaron Maybin is putting a lot on his plate now because his goal is to have a full plate in September.
Right now, we're talking food. The New York Jets' undersized pass rusher is eating 5,000 to 6,000 calories per day with the hope of gaining enough weight to prove he can be an every-down player. He's up to 243, an increase of 13 pounds in only three months.
"After this offseason, I hope I never see another chicken again," he said, revealing a big part of his daily menu.
At least fowl is better than foul, which described his first two seasons.
Maybin, drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2009, was a colossal disappointment. His emergence last season with the Jets was one of the bright spots on the team -- the inspiring, second-chance story of a player who appeared to be on the fast track to Vernon Gholston-ville.
Now Maybin wants more.
"Mayhem," the nickname coined by his old college coach, the late Joe Paterno, wants more playing time and definitely more sacks.
"I should've easily had double-digit sacks last year," said Maybin, who produced a team-high six sacks despite limited playing time. "That's disappointing, but it's also encouraging because I know how much better I can be if I didn't leave those plays on the field."
Maybin was one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league, according to the stats-based website ProFootballFocus.com. With only 197 pass-rushing attempts, fifth on the team, he registered the six sacks and 16 quarterback hurries. Imagine what he could do with twice as many opportunities.
"I expect him to have a big year rushing the passer for us," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
Maybin missed the first three games after being released by the Jets in the preseason, and he was integrated slowly after re-signing in Week 4. When he was on the field, Maybin brought a new dimension to the defense -- speed.
Speed kills, as they say, but the opponent invariably catches up. The Jets, trying to be proactive, have devised a plan that will allow Maybin to expand his pass-rushing repertoire and become less reliant on outside speed rushes.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and outside linebackers coach Mike Smith reviewed last season's practice and game tapes, compiling a video file of every pass-rushing move used by Maybin, who has every play on his iPad. From there, they identified his three best moves.
The plan: perfect those moves, including counters off each move.
"They took my whole repertoire, every move I thought I was good at, and they just simplified it," Maybin said.
A speed rusher who relies on one move -- a one-trick pony -- can become easy prey for offensive tackles, all of whom learn quickly to overplay the outside rush.
"You need an over-under move, kind of like a crossover dribble in basketball," Pettine said. "If you put that fear in a tackle, making him think, 'This guy might try a crossover on me,' you become that much more effective."
So Maybin has been working on his footwork, planting one foot and dipping his shoulder. The Jets haven't added any speed rushers in the offseason -- No. 1 pick Quinton Coples is more power than speed -- so Maybin will be the focal point in their third-down package.
To keep opponents off balance, they will move him around the formation. Maybin said he has lined up all over in OTA practices, rushing from the middle-linebacker and defensive-tackle positions.
"Now the goal is, it's not good enough anymore to be a role player," he said. "Now we have to make ourselves an impact player. We have to change the momentum of games."
If Maybin had his choice, he'd be on the field every down. That explains why he's bulking up, eating chicken almost every day, devouring steak two or three times a week and loading up on the carbs. He has maintained his body fat -- a sculpted 3 percent -- but keeping the weight won't be easy because of what he called a "high metabolism."
Will he become a starting outside linebacker? Probably not, although Ryan said Maybin could see some time as a backup in the base defense. His primary job hasn't changed: get the quarterback.
The Jets recognize Maybin's strength, and they've tailored a specific role for him. In Buffalo, the expectations were much greater because he was a first-round pick. He failed to produce, got caught in a downward spiral and "the fun was completely gone" from the game.
"Those years when I was struggling in Buffalo, I was really struggling," he said. "I was mad and pissed off, too. I was mad every single day. They wanted me to be something I wasn't.
"Rex and the coaches here have embraced me for who I am and what I am, and they put me in a position to be exactly that. I can't even put into words how good that feels."