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Jets' new linebacking corps: The young and the rudderless

Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, which begins July 29:

Position: Linebacker

Projected starters: Darron Lee and Demario Davis at inside linebacker; Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin at outside linebacker.

Projected reserves: Josh Martin, Dylan Donahue, Bruce Carter, and Julian Stanford.

Notables on the bubble: Spencer Paysinger, Freddie Bishop and Corey Lemonier.

Top storyline: This is one of the youngest linebacking corps in the league, as the average age of the projected starters is 24.3. For the first time since 2006, they won't have David Harris in the middle, meaning there's no proven leader. The position probably falls to Davis, who played the "Mike" role last season in the Cleveland Browns' 3-4 base. He was a weak-inside 'backer in his first incarnation with the Jets. "You can't replace him," Davis said of Harris. "I believe that certain individuals can't be replaced." This could be an every-down gig for Davis, who believes he improved his speed in the offseason. Another plus is familiarity with Todd Bowles' defense. The question is, can he run it the way Harris did? This regime has questions about Davis; remember, they let him walk after the 2015 season.

Player to watch: The honeymoon is over for Lee, last year's first-round pick. After an underwhelming rookie year (616 defensive snaps, 70 tackles, one sack), he should take a significant step in 2017. The athletic ability is there; he was one of the fastest linebackers to come out in recent years. Teammates say he's more comfortable within the system and sees plays develop quicker than last year. Now all he has to do is put it all together.

Wild card: This is a huge season for Mauldin, who flashed pass-rushing potential as a rookie but regressed last season. He could benefit the most from the arrival of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who teaches a power-oriented technique over finesse. Mauldin admittedly relied too heavily on finesse moves in his first two seasons (6.5 sacks). The Jets desperately need to develop a competent edge rush to complement their powerful interior people. Don't sleep on Martin, who got first-team reps in Jenkins' spot in the spring.

Training camp will be a success if ...: The Jets are no longer getting ripped for cutting Harris. At the behest of owner Woody Johnson, they dumped Harris to save money ($6.5 million), showing no regard for his value as a leader. It's not like they did it to create an opportunity for a young middle linebacker in the pipeline; it was a pure money dump. It could come back to haunt them.

By the numbers: The linebackers have taken a lot of grief over the years for their struggles in pass coverage. Statistically, it wasn't horrible last season, based on the receiving numbers for opposing running backs -- 72 catches (tied-11th fewest) for 533 yards (sixth), per ESPN Stats & Information. The problem was in scoring territory, as they allowed five touchdown catches. Only two teams yielded more than five to running backs.