Sunday, April 27, 2003

Jets trade up for UK's Robertson

By Andrea Szulszteyn
The Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Herman Edwards had one question for Dewayne Robertson after the New York Jets selected him with the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft.

"Are you ready to get the quarterback?" Edwards said.

"Yeah, coach," Robertson answered.

The Jets got the player they wanted Saturday and immediately upgraded their defense with the 6-foot-1, 317-pound tackle from Kentucky. They selected Robertson after sending their Nos. 13 and 22 picks to the Bears on Friday.

Chicago also received a fourth-round pick in this year's draft. Jets fans, known for booing their team's selections, cheered loudly when Robertson was chosen.

"We're very excited about the fact that we were able to trade up and get what we think is an impact player on defense at his position," general manager Terry Bradway said.

The Jets drafted another player to fill a defensive need in the second round, selecting linebacker Victor Hobson from Michigan at No. 53. In the third round, they picked Michigan fullback B.J. Askew at No. 85.

There were some anxious moments for the Jets early. With New Orleans and New England negotiating to move up, the Jets had preliminary talks with Detroit to jump to No. 2.

After Houston picked wide receiver Andre Johnson at No. 3, Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell high-fived his staff.

"He is by far the best inside defensive tackle (available)," Cottrell said. "If you want to get a good defensive lineman, you have to select them early. They don't just sit around."

Robertson left school after his junior season. He was a three-year starter at Kentucky with 48 tackles, a team-high five sacks and 13 quarterback pressures last season.

He was surprised to go in the top five. When he decided to go, the NFL draft advisory board projected him as a late-first round or early second-round selection.

"It's been a blessing," Robertson said. "After my workout in Kentucky, everything shot straight up."

Robertson had no idea the Jets were set on him. They scouted Robertson during the season and evaluated him even more when he decided to leave school.

"This is a unique player, an active player, a disruptive guy, stays on his feet, chases the quarterback," Edwards said. "He does all of the things you ask a guy at his position to do. He's a guy we expect to come in here and help us on defense."

Robertson fills a major need for a team that has little depth on its defensive line. The Jets have used the draft to build their front. Last year, they selected defensive end Bryan Thomas at No. 22. In 2000, the Jets picked starting ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham in the first round.

Thomas was a disappointment in his rookie season, and the Jets are hoping for bigger things from him this year. Robertson also will be expected to step into the rotation immediately with Josh Evans and Jason Ferguson.

"He's going right into the fire," Cottrell said. "Anytime you go up high, you've got to get a player that can go immediately."

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has compared Robertson to Tampa Bay All-Pro Warren Sapp, but the Jets shied away from such expectations.

"All he needs to do is be Dewayne," Edwards said. "When you can build your defense in the middle, which most good defenses are built in the middle, that's where it starts."

This was the first time the Jets had a top-five pick since 1996, when selected wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson at No. 1.

Robertson doesn't mind the comparisons to Sapp and is thrilled to start his career with the Jets.

"It will be a great experience, a great opportunity for me to come in and be a part of this program," Robertson said.

Hobson, from nearby Mount Laurel, N.J., was an All-Big Ten selection last season and started every game at outside linebacker, leading the Wolverines with a career-high 99 tackles. He added six sacks and will play strongside linebacker for the Jets.

Though his speed could be a concern - he's in the 4.7 range - Bradway said Hobson plays faster than his times show. And it was important for the Jets to keep bolstering their defense.

"Our focus was defense," Bradway said. "That was our goal. In getting a defensive tackle and linebacker, we're off to a good start."

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Jags get Leftwich; big questions to come
Newman goes to Cowboys
Jets trade up for UK's Robertson
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