As the weeks pass us by, the New York Jets season tends to get more interesting. For a team that was not even supposed to “compete”, they look quite impressive. A large portion of this impressive play can be attributed to the linebacking core, a vicious crew that seem to be every star halfback’s worst nightmare. Let’s grade out the linebacker’s performances from week 3 against the Buffalo Bills.
Grading System: For the 2013 season, I’ll use a simple grading scale when reviewing the linebackers. Each player will receiver a number 1-10, with 1 obviously being abysmal and 10 being outstanding. At the end of each review, I will go over the “biggest impact play” and also nominate a linebacker poised to have an excellent game in the following week. Let’s get to it.
This will probably be the last week I bring up Harris play from last season, as it is only fair to bury that lost season for good. But seriously, who is this guy? Let me break it down quite simply for you. The Jets have put an excellent group (working their way to elite status) of defensive linemen in front of David Harris and Demario Davis this year. Harris has a ton of wide open space in front of him seconds after the ball is snapped, letting him run with a full head of steam at the ball carrier. What I love about Harris is that he isn’t missing tackles. He wraps up the ball carrier, leading to efficient gang tackles. More importantly, him and Demario Davis sniff out screens better than most duo’s in the entire NFL. Good luck doing anything against this duo, I don’t care who your handing the ball to.
Davis played 86 out of 86 defensive snaps Sunday. That is impressive enough on its own, but two primary reasons come to mind: endurance and versatility. Davis is showing he’s a “do it all” type linebacker, as he remains in on running and passing downs. He is a perfect run stopper next to Harris, as he plays with more speed and agility. Where he fully compliments (and somewhat saves) Harris is his coverage ability. Running backs had a field day last year running flats against the Jets, but this year they don’t even have a split second to catch the ball before they are hit. Before I wrap up the inside linebackers reviews, I can’t leave out their pass rushing display shown against the Bills. While they aren’t sent at the quarterback often, they both are doing a hell of a job when given the chance to blitz. I’m not the type to “drink the kool-aid”, but Demario Davis deserves a ton of praise once again this week.
Barnes is exactly what he was advertised to be: a situational pass rusher with a lot of speed off the edge. Unlike most speed rushers that get tossed out of plays, he has an excellent array of moves to get at the quarterback. The most impressive one was when he bursted right at tackle Cordy Glenn, ducked his left shoulder under him, and blew past him to hit EJ Manuel. Barnes is the type of player that doesn’t overwhelm you on the stat sheet, but he forces quarterbacks to step up into the mouth of the defensive tackles. Excellent work on his 46 snaps, bringing a ton of energy to a spot this defense has lacked for years.
With Quinton Coples back in the lineup, McIntyre only played 23 snaps. He registered a solo tackle and an assisted tackle in a short amount of time on the field. McIntyre is a nice depth player as he brings some energy to the run defense and pass rush, he’s just not the type of player to have on the field for more than 40% of the snaps. Rotating players on the front seven is vital to sustaining a consistent pass rush, something the Jets have displayed in full force throughout three games. I’m not going to sit here and glorify McIntyre, but it is nice to have him back in a role he’s succeeded at before.
The buzz kill of this writeup, Calvin Pace. I’m not a Pace hater at all, but he was one guy on the defense Sunday that really frustrated me. I understand the guy shouldn’t be relied on as a pass rusher or some run stuffing demon, but if you are unblocked you must make tackles. On multiple occasions, specifically Fred Jackson’s 59 yard scamper, Pace absolutely blew a wide open stuff behind the line of scrimmage. On the stat sheet 4 solo tackles and 4 assisted look impressive but there is a reason for these high numbers. I’ve noticed through three weeks teams would rather double guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison than actually leave someone to block Calvin Pace. I can live with him not making big plays, but Pace has to wrap up running backs, especially when they are stopped behind the line.
Big Q’s return. It sure was nice seeing him out on the field, setting the edge and rushing the passer. While many are claiming Coples doesn’t look comfortable at outside linebacker, it’s a bit of an overreaction. The Bills couldn’t get anything going in the run game, inside or outside. Coples plays the run quite well and forces oppositions to key on him in pass protection. I wasn’t overwhelmed with his performance Sunday, but there was a reason EJ Manuel was running for his life. Too many guys on the Jets front seven warrant double teams and Coples is one of them, leaving players like David Harris, Calvin Pace, Demario Davis, and even Antonio Allen getting to the quarterback unblocked. After a quick return from a tough injury, two quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss are nice numbers for Coples. Keep an eye on “Q” as the season goes on, he’s practically a guarantee to progress.
Biggest Impact Play: David Harris sack with 5:15 left in the 3rd quarter. At this point EJ Manuel has taken an absolute beating. He’s a big, tough kid but everybody from the Jets defense is getting in on the sack party. Good to see Harris playing a lot faster this season.
Linebacker Poised For Week 4 Success: Chris Johnson is fast, but he’s 25th in the league with a YPC of 3.7. This past few years for him have been extremely disappointing. The Jets have already shut down two top tier running backs in Doug Martin and CJ Spiller, making the former stud Johnson next in line. With outside runs and screen passes, look for Demario Davis to be in the middle of everything yet again.