As the Jets get close to training camp, I am examining the roster and giving you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 19: Steve McLendon
Last year’s ranking: No. 21
Age on Opening Day: 34
How acquired: Signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 21, 2016
Years left on contract: 1
2020 Salary Cap figure: $2.8 million
Looking back at 2019
McLendon may have had his best season as a Jet last year. Even at age 33, McLendon was highly productive on the field and a critical leader off the field.
McLendon really impressed the new coaching staff from the start of the offseason program. He is a locker room Yoda, with sayings and teachings for young players. He likes to say that he was drafted in the eighth round (he was undrafted) and tells them “the gym is always open.”
On the field, McLendon started all 16 games despite hip and knee injuries late in the season. He tied Jamal Adams for the team lead with 10 tackles for loss, which was also a career high. He also had a career-high seven quarterback hits, one fumble recovery, 2 ½ sacks and 36 tackles.
McLendon was a big part of the Jets having the No. 2 defense against the run. He had 19 stops (tackles that constitute a failure for the offense), according to PFF. He only missed one tackle. He was the 12th rated interior lineman by PFF out of 118 and the ninth against the run.
McLendon showed his leadership by organizing a players-only meeting after an 0-4 start, before the team’s win over the Cowboys. Later in the year, he stopped a practice when he did not like the energy and exhorted his teammates to practice harder.
Outlook for 2020
McLendon’s role figures to be the same as it always is. He will play 35-40 percent of the snaps, stop the run and lead the team.
At some point, his play will drop, but he showed no signs of that last year. McLendon has been conducting workouts with teammates this offseason at the gym he owns in Georgia.
Gregg Williams’ defense was great against the run last year. McLendon is the main man clogging the middle and Williams will be counting on him again in that role. Adam Gase will be relying on McLendon to be on of his locker-room leaders.