Ryan says Gholston will be 'major contributor'

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham Gholston
Perhaps Rex Ryan has resorted to a bit of coaching psyops to bolster his pupil's confidence.

Ryan offered some encouraging words Thursday about beleaguered defensive end Vernon Gholston.

It's possible Ryan was telegraphing a rah-rah message through the press, but maybe the Jets finally are seeing evidence last year's sixth overall draft pick can start living up to his immense promise.

"I think he'll have to earn his role no matter what it is," Ryan told reporters at the Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J. "Whether he is a starter? Is he this? Is he that?

"I know one thing: He is going to be a major contributor for us."

Gholston was insignificant last year. The pass-rushing specialist opted to leave Ohio State a year early and tore up the NFL scouting combine.

The Jets gave him a five-year contract with $21 million in guarantees.

But Gholston couldn't crack the starting lineup. He was a healthy scratch in a critical Week 15 game against the Buffalo Bills. He finished the year with one solo tackle, dead last among the 23 Jets who recorded any stops.

Jets fans hope Ryan, the coordinator of some great Baltimore Ravens defenses, can find a way to unleash Gholston. Ryan has compared Gholston's potential to that of Terrell Suggs, a 10th overall pick who started one game as a rookie in 2003 and made the Pro Bowl his next year.

"I am really excited about Vernon," Ryan said. "I think he is where I thought he would be right now in this stage. He is working and getting better every day."

Ryan mentioned Gholston got off to a late start because NFL rules prohibit draftees from reporting anything other than rookie camp until after their school holds final exams. Ohio State's quarter system takes them into June, routinely forcing their alumni to wait.

"The thing we have to remember is he never had any of this time last year," Ryan said. "When he came in, everybody was so far further ahead than he was where it was sometimes tough to make up ground.

"I think we are seeing a guy now that is confident. He's right there. He knows what he is doing, and you're seeing that natural talent that he has."