How Jets linebacker has remade himself after a lost season

There are days when Lorenzo Mauldin misses lasagna. As part of his offseason diet, the Jets’ outside linebacker swore off pasta along with other carbs to try to lose weight.

The diet worked. He is down to 260 pounds from 268, and he hopes to lose a few more pounds before the season. Now, he has to see if the lost pounds equals more production.

“Last year I gained some weight and it kind of went downhill for me there because I slowed up and I wasn’t the guy that I was supposed to be, the guy that I was in my rookie year,” Mauldin said. “I feel faster now. I’ve got my speed back. I feel 100 percent with my ankle. I feel like I’m flying around out there.”

Mauldin, a 2015 third-round pick, gained weight entering last season in hopes it would help him against the run. Instead, it slowed him down rushing the passer. He dropped from four sacks as a rookie to 2.5 last year, a disappointing sophomore season.

“Last year I felt like I didn’t put too much in for the team,” he said. “I felt like I was neglecting the fact of how good I could be. That’s probably the worst season I’ve ever had, with 2 ½ sacks. It just felt bad to me.”

Mauldin tracks Ryan Nassib in last year’s preseason.AP

That led to him cutting down on carbs and fried foods this offseason. Mauldin, who likes to cook, said he has focused on cooking leaner meats and introducing more grains in his diet.

“His endurance is better from that standpoint,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said of Mauldin’s weight loss. “We have to get in pads to see whether he still has his strength.”

MauldinBill Kostroun

The Jets were hoping for big things from Mauldin in 2016. They expected him to make the leap from designated pass rusher to every-down linebacker. Instead, he began the year again as a pass rusher only and saw his playing time dip. He played just six snaps in Week 4 against the Seahawks.

“The coaches, of course, trusted in some of the other players to play that position,” Mauldin said. “I thought it was a good idea because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do. I felt sluggish. That was my big thing this year, to come in and let the coaches know I’m ready to play. I’m going back to my rookie year, but better.”

After some injuries to other players, Mauldin’s playing time increased in the middle of last season and he showed some strides. Then, he sprained his ankle in a Week 12 loss to the Patriots. He re-injured the ankle in practice later in the season and did not play again in 2016.

“All I can do now is look back at that and use it as motivation,” Mauldin said. “I want to stay healthy, stay fit and out of the trainer’s room.”

During OTA practices, Mauldin has looked good. He has shown his old burst off the edge and looked more sure of himself dropping into coverage, something that will be big for him to remain on the field.

“I believe I’m a complete linebacker now,” Mauldin said. “My biggest thing was learning coverages, understanding what offenses are doing. That’s my biggest thing in OTAs, understanding what I need to do when it comes to coverage, knowing what the offense is going to do before they do it, getting keys on different reads and understanding what’s going on. I feel like I’m complete now. The rush came easy because that’s what I do. Now, dropping into coverage and helping the secondary, I feel like that’s a big step for me.”

Mauldin said he is excited to work with new outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, a Hall of Famer. He said Greene already has shown him some different pass-rushing techniques.

In year three, Mauldin looks leaner. The question now is: Does that mean he’s better?

Filed under 6/10/17