The New York Jets list Steve McLendon, defensive tackle, as 6’3”, 310 pounds. They signed him in free agency after their starting nose tackle, Damon Harrison, signed a big-money contract with the Giants, and in doing so put the Pittsburgh Steelers out of a nose tackle of their own, in part prompting them to draft Javon Hargrave in the third round.
While McLendon was never the prototypical nose tackle in the Casey Hampton vein, he proved to be more than capable of holding the point of attack, and at times in penetrating to make plays of his own. You might remember, after all, that he originally played the defensive end position in Pittsburgh.
That was before the past couple of seasons, however, when the Steelers moved to a more one-gapping, penetrating defensive front, requiring more of their defensive ends in the pass rush than before. And the front office did not believe McLendon fit this new mold to justify chasing the salary that Jets were willing to commit to him for a position they only play a third of the time or less.
New York, however, seems to believe that they can get more out of him than the Steelers’ coaching staff did in that regard, with head coach Todd Bowles saying back in March after signing him that while he is a nose tackle, “he has some position flex” and that “he can play defensive end as well”, saying, “I think you’re going to be pleased with him”.
McLendon actually did play some defensive end for the Steelers last season while Stephon Tuitt was injured, and logged about 30 snaps there in the base 3-4 defense while Daniel McCullers occupied the nose tackle position. He also saw some time, primarily during that two-game period that Tuitt missed, as a sub-package defensive tackle.
While it was in those two games that he produced his lone sack of the season, he was, overall, unconvincing as a pass rusher and what he was able to bring to that aspect of the defense, which is precisely why the Steelers were prepared to move on when his price rose.
The Jets have not typically been a defense that accounts for much from their nose tackle position when it comes to offering anything as a pass rusher. Harrison certainly was not in that mold. But the Steelers did initially believe that McLendon might be when he first inherited the starting job.
That he did not was probably a significant disappointment. He had shown flashes in the seasons prior to his entering the starting lineup of being able to offer something against the passing game, but that never really developed in any meaningful way as a starter.
Whether or now Bowles can get that out of him in New York remains to be seen, but considering the defensive ends that they have at their disposal, I wouldn’t imagine that much would be asked of him in that regard anyway.