Get To Know Your Jets Nose Tackle – Steve McLendon

Joe Caporoso with a closer look at New York Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon, with insight from Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot

The New York Jets recently signed nose tackle Steve McLendon to a 3 year, 10.5 million dollar contract with 4 million guaranteed. He is expected to be the primary replacement for the departed Damon Harrison, along with second year player Deon Simon. McLendon is 30 years old and coming off six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he began his career as an undrafted free agent. Let’s take a closer look at McLendon with a huge help from our friend Dave Bryan at Steelers Depot…

Dave had this to say about McLendon’s game. It is also worth looking through these excellent film breakdowns of him from the previous few years at Steelers Depot.

McLendon is a very hard working veteran nose tackle for starters and very quiet. Against the run, he is at his best when it comes to playing one-gap against power and inside zone runs. Additionally, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a nose tackle who plays the outside zone run as well as McLendon does as he stays square to the line of scrimmage and moves well laterally.
While McLendon can two-gap and play over the center as a 0-technique, it’s not his strongest suit. You’ll like to know that last year when he was on the field for the Steelers during the regular season, opposing offenses only averaged 2.31 yards per carry.

When it comes to pass-rushing, that is McLendon’s weakest part of his game as he’s never been a huge pressure provider from the 0 or 1 technique spot as part of a five-man front. Don’t expect much from him in that area and especially if he’s having to fight a double-team. More than anything, McLendon is good at keeping his eyes on the quarterback when rushing and preventing an exit up the middle.

After battling shoulder and ankle problems in 2014, McLendon didn’t miss a game in 2015. His snaps were limited in 2015, however, due to the Steelers defense using their sub-package front roughly 70% of the time. Because he’s not a premier pass-rusher, that’s why he didn’t see the field much on obvious passing downs against offenses that used three or more wide receivers. Once again, that’s just not his strong suit. He’s two-down nose tackle.

While the Steelers more than likely wanted to re-sign McLendon, they weren’t going to pay his full market value being as he’s not even close to being a player who will see 50% of the defensive snaps. I hate to see him go, but that’s how the business works. Consider him a free agency cap casualty of sorts.

From what I’ve watched of McLendon and from Dave’s description of his game, he basically sounds like a Harrison clone, only three years older and less talented. Harrison is arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL but similar to McLendon is a two down player. McLendon should be able to competently fill the void and hopefully get a boost of support from Deon Simon, who the Jets coaching staff is high on.

Over the last six years, McLendon has accumulated 90 tackles, 5 sacks and 1 pass defensed. He played 379 defensive snaps last season and 63 special teams snaps. For comparison sake, Harrison played 568 defensive snaps and 21 special teams snaps in 2015. The Jets are likely hoping McLendon can play a similar amount of snaps as he did last year, with Simon filling in the rest of the available ones to fill Harrison’s playing time.

Here are a few GIFs of McLendon in action:

As of the now the Jets defensive line depth chart breaks down like this:

  • DE: Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams
  • NT: Steve McLendon, Deon Simon
  • DE: Sheldon Richardson, Jarvis Jenkins
  • Unsigned: Leger Douzable, Stephen Bowen

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports