New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley returns to the gridiron this fall after nearly two years away.
After signing with Gang Green in 2019, Mosley played in just two games due to injury. He then opted out of the 2020 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following all that time off the radar, Mosley returned this offseason to rave reviews from teammates and coaches, who have called the linebacker trimmer and motivated to return to his Pro Bowl form.
"It's been a breath of fresh air, that's the best way to put it," Mosley told The Official Jets Podcast recently. "I'm happy to be back in the building with my teammates, to be around the locker room and the new energy. What we're doing now is building a great foundation, setting this team on course to stack up wins and get to where we want to go."
Mosley is often a forgotten part of the puzzle after missing most of two years. Much of the Jets offseason has focused on upgrading the offense surrounding rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and wideout Elijah Moore. But Mosley's return could go a long way to helping turn around an atrocious defense last season.
It's easy to forget that in Week 1, 2019, Mosely looked like the best player on the field in the Jets' 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and worth every penny of his five-year, $85 million contract. The roving linebacker compiled six tackles, a pick-six, a fumble recovery, and two passes defended. He played like a man on fire until a late groin injury took him out. The Jets' defense fell apart after the injury.
Mosley tried to return to the lineup five weeks later but was clearly still hindered and ultimately shut down for the season.
The injury, coupled with his opt-out last season for family reasons, caused Mosley's time away to generate questions about whether the four-time Pro Bowler will return with any rust that could leave permanent scarring. Mosely scoffed at those questions.
"Yeah, I don't have any doubts in myself," he said. "I mean, [Rob Gronkowski] took two years off [only one] and won a Super Bowl, so it is what it is. I'm here, so we'll let the play do the talking.
"When you're out for a while, you're always in your head, thinking, 'When I get back, how's it going to feel? Am I going to be able to move like I used to?' I feel great."
In new coach Robert Saleh's defense, Mosley will be the key in the middle. The presumption has been that Saleh will immediately upgrade a unit that got torched last season, particularly on the back end. If Mosley returns to his battering-ram ways -- still a legit 'if' at this stage -- it would be a massive aid to a unit that lacked leadership and playmaking while he was off the field for almost two full seasons.