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Two of the NFL's highest-drafted rookies will face each other Sunday in Oakland — New York Jets outside linebacker Vernon Gholston and Raiders running back Darren McFadden. Watch your TV closely; it might be hard to find Gholston — unless the camera slow-pans the sideline.

The former Ohio State standout is discovering that life in the NFL is a lot tougher than carefree Saturdays in the Big Ten. Five games into his pro career, Gholston still is looking for his first sack. The Jets held a sack party in Sunday's victory over the Bengals, as six different players combined for five sacks, but Gholston never got close to the quarterback. He was lucky to get in the game. Removed from the sub packages — his role in the previous games — Gholston didn't play until the third quarter, when he spelled the banged-up Bryan Thomas (calf). As soon as Thomas was able to return, it was back to the bench for Gholston, who registered zero tackles in 13 plays.

The Jets expected growing pains from Gholston, who is learning a new position, but they probably never imagined this: Only one tackle. Obviously, they'd never admit it.

"When I'm going to be concerned is when we're not making progress, and when we're not seeing him get better, week-in, week-out," Eric Mangini said. "That, to me, is a concern."

Gholston was drafted sixth, two picks after McFadden, who was rated one spot ahead of Gholston on the Jets' draft board, a person familiar with the team's thinking said at the time. If the Raiders hadn't selected McFadden, who has rushed for 302 yards and a 5.1 average, he'd be taking handoffs from Brett Favre.

"If I were the Jets, I would've done everything I could to get McFadden or (Jonathan) Stewart," an opposing personnel director said this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

They recognized that shortcoming, but they felt Gholston was the best value at No.6 even though they had big money already invested in two outside linebackers, Thomas and Calvin Pace. Thomas, who leads the team with 4-1/2 sacks, has rebounded from a disappointing season, raising the question of whether the Jets panicked by drafting his would-be replacement only one year after signing Thomas to a long-term extension.

Source: New York Daily News

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