After an impressive week one performance against one of the better running backs in the league in Doug Martin, the New York Jets linebackers were excellent again. I was cautious with my grading after week one, but after two weeks of solid play they deserve the praise. While the inside linebackers are looking like two of the best run stuffers in the league after two shutdown weeks, the outside linebackers have been inconsistent. With the help of Quinton Coples returning this week against Buffalo, the Jets should have one of the better front sevens in the AFC. Let’s grade out this past week’s performances.
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.
Harris looks like an entirely different player with this young defensive line in front of him. With space to work he is finding anything that resembles an opening in the line and instantly clogs up the lane, preventing any significant gains for opposing running backs. What’s even more impressive is his ability in pass coverage recently. While he’s never going to lock down tight ends or speedy running backs, Harris is sniffing out screens and dump passes instantly. If he can keep up this production all season it would be a very nice year for Harris, reestablishing himself as a top 10 inside linebacker once again.
Throughout the preseason I found myself saying “Is Demario Davis being forced into a starting role he’s not ready for?” Heading into week three, it feels good to have finally retired that question. Davis looks fast, strong, and brings a lot of leadership for a second year player. While he’ll get beat every once and awhile it seems to be from lack of experience rather than lack of talent. He’s also very good in coverage for an inside linebacker and will only continue to get better. The combination of Davis and Harris held New England’s backfield to less than 3 yards per carry, four days after shutting down Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin. Hats off to both of these guys for coming out stronger than ever.
Coming off of a very impressive debut in Green and White, Barnes was shut down by New England. Without Quinton Coples on the opposite outside linebacker spot, offenses can game plan around Barnes as the only threat off the edge for the Jets defense. This was present in the New England game as he was consistently chipped by extra blockers such as tight ends and running backs. He also only played 31 of the 65 snaps, primarily used on pass rushing downs. I fully expect Barnes to have a big role against Buffalo and to record at least a few quarterback pressures, but this was not his best week as he was clearly a focal point of New England’s protection schemes.
McIntyre has been Coples replacement and consistently shows why he is a back up player year after year. He’s not the worst run defender or pass rusher, but he doesn’t really excel at either. Even worse, he fails to set the edge at times often needing safety help inside the box. Recording a half a tackle when you play 44 of the 65 snaps isn’t exactly impressive. What’s even more disappointing is you can see his struggles on tape, but he was apart of a team effort that completely shut down New England’s rushing attack, giving him a middle of the pack performance.
Pace, who wasn’t even expected to be on the roster, has set in to a very vital role (55/65 snaps). It’s clear he’s quite slow and struggles to get off blocks, but his veteran presence and instinct shows up once and awhile on tape. He often knows where to be and on one of the youngest front seven’s in the NFL, that’s a pretty nice characteristic to have on board.
Not a whole lot to report here as Sapp played three snaps the entire game. One bright spot is that he recorded a half a tackle, the same amount Calvin Pace recorded in 55 snaps. Sapp is an athletic player, but his youth and inconsistencies are a presence continuing to hinder his overall game. With Coples set to return, it will be very hard for him to get on the field.
Biggest Impact Play: No “impact” plays in this game, but I’d like to point out the Jets overall defensive performance. No matter who he’s throwing to, holding Tom Brady to 13 points in a game (3 were given from a turnover), is impressive. If the secondary can rebound from a slow start, the Jets will be a competitive team due to their excellence in stopping the run.
Linebacker Poised For Week 3 Success: Demario Davis. He’s in line for a big game against the Bills, continuing his hot start. The interior line should take advantage of the Bills weak situation at guard, possibly forcing EJ Manuel into an errant short throw. Will Davis have his first pick six of the season? Bold prediction, but I’m feeling it.