It hasn't been the start LB Lorenzo Mauldin wanted for his NFL career.
The former 2015 third-rounder had two inconsistent seasons to begin his time with the Jets, and last season wasn't much better with season-ending surgery to repair his back.
So, entering 2018 with just one year left on his rookie contract, Mauldin knows what he is playing for at this point.
"I'm definitely trying to fight for my roster spot," he told NJ.com's Darryl Slater on Tuesday. "I'm overwhelmed, actually, because now it's like: It's now or nothing."
Mauldin was brought on by the Jets in hopes that he would be a versatile linebacker, especially in the pass rush. He did show spurts of that in his rookie season with four sakcs out of his 17 tackles in 15 games. But, after just 2.5 sacks over 11 games in 2016, Mauldin recognizes that production isn't going to get the job done.
Or, in his case, keep a job.
"Those are low sacks numbers," he said. "I feel like I'm a new man. Now I've got an extra step to me. I feel like I'm on my way."
Mauldin's back injury, which turned out to be a bulding disk, physically impaired him when training camp began last season. On the field, he couldn't get into his normal pass-rushing stance, and off the field, he could barely sleep or walk for that matter. He related the pain to "like people were sticking me with pins."
Now, after a full season of rest following his surgery, Mauldin is ready to get back to work.
"Of course, there are some kinks to work out, but no pain, no stiffness," he said. "I feel like I was a little rusty out there when it came to the pass rush, because I hadn't gone against somebody in a whole year. It felt good to actually be out there and get those looks again."
The Jets are also hoping that Mauldin can break out this season, as he says they consistently tell him they see the potential. He just has to tap it.
"I can either push myself to pass the limits that I already have, and I feel like I can do better than that this year," Mauldin said. "I definitely want to prove that to the coaches. They still see it in me, and they tell me all the time.
"I definitely felt like last year, I was coming on. That's all I have to do [now], is just go out there and do what I did last OTAs -- show the coaches I can get to the quarterback."