The Jets suffered a tough loss to a Pittsburgh Steeler team looking for their first win of the season in week six. Although gang green did not get the job done, the front seven put out an impressive display in the trenches against the run yet again. Was the pass rush enough to warrant good grades? Let’s take a look.
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 nominate a linebacker poised to have an excellent game in the following week. Let’s get to it.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller had six catches for over 80 yards, but it is hard to put a heavy dose of the blame on Harris. Watching a lot of tape on Harris this year, he often sits in a zone in the middle of the field rather than running man to man with opposing tight ends. Miller also made his presence felt in the screen game, a vital part of Pittsburgh’s offensive game plan Sunday. Although Harris was shaky in coverage, he was the lead run stopper for the Jets with eight total tackles and a sack. He’s one of the best run defenders on a team that’s second in run defense in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s leading rusher was rookie Le’Veon Bell, who only notched 34 yards on 16 carries (that’s 2.1 ypc). Many will argue Harris is a liability in coverage, but his supreme run defense and surprising success as a blitzer have been vital to the defense’s success. Another good week for the Hitman.
The most impressive stat from the Harris and Davis linebacker duo is their ability to stay on the field. Both guys played all 65 defensive snaps on Sunday, flexing their steady endurance. Davis finished with 5.5 tackles, an average day for the young run stuffer. While his play, much like Harris, was solid all around, he failed to make any impact plays. He had a big opportunity for an interception and came up short, a turnover that could have changed the Jets fortunes. It is hard to expect a second year player to not only play solid week in and week out, but to also be a play maker. I firmly believe as Davis continues to develop, the forced fumbles and interceptions will come. For now, be content with his consistent run stuffing and leadership in the middle of the defense.
McIntyre played around 50% of the defensive snaps on Sunday and surprisingly flashed pass rush ability. His lone sack came after smoking a tight end on an outside pass rush move. He took down Big Ben one on one which is impressive enough. He finished with four total tackles, which isn’t half bad for the small role he plays in the defense. I say this week in and week out, but the guy is a limited outside linebacker. He offers virtually nothing in coverage and struggles to read screens, which costs the Jets a few times on Sunday. A very typical performance from McIntyre on Sunday, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Pace played 55 of the 65 defensive snaps Sunday, showing he is a main component in Rex Ryan’s defense this season. I’m going to take a bold stance here and not knock pace for what he does wrong, but for what he does not do at all. The Steelers ran out a makeshift offensive line that has endured injuries and just poor all around performance. Pace should have had a field day and instead he racks up a half a sack and barely any pressures at all. At this point the team consistently says they need to make plays and force turnovers. Guess what? Turnovers start up front, from the pressure the quarterback faces forcing him into bad decisions. If Pace is getting stone walled by no name offensive tackles each week while showing little run defense, does he really deserve to be on the field for majority of the snaps? You tell me.
It is hard to rip on Coples as he is coming off a tough injury and in the middle of a position change. At the same time basic aspects that he usually excels in like pass rushing moves, are becoming a struggle for “Q.” He did register a huge hit on Big Ben but that was his lone shining moment of the game. Coples is struggling in open field coverage and the Steelers exposed this by running a variety of screens and short passes. Another tough week for Coples, but I truly believe his breakout performance will come in due time. He is too talented to stay quiet for too long.
Linebacker Poised For Week 5 Success: This is a bold call but I’m going with Quinton Coples. He’s had a quiet season in the few games he’s played in and the Jets need him more than ever this week against the Patriots. How about two sacks, with one causing a fumble on Tom Brady this week? Get at ’em, Q.