Pittsburgh Jets? A Closer Look at Jason Worilds and Emmanuel Sanders

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a pair of free agents who the New York Jets are rumored to have interest in this offseason. In order to get a better understanding of both players we reached out to Neal Coolong, who is the Managing Editor of Behind The Steel Curtain. Check out his commentary on both players below and make sure to give him a follow! 

EMMANUEL SANDERS (Check out our evaluation of Sanders here and below for additional thoughts)

Emmanuel Sanders is a solid all-around NFL wide receiver. He has good speed, decent hands and plays the game hard. The main issue with Sanders and Pittsburgh may simply be a combination of injuries and the money having already been spent on Antonio Brown. Had Sanders been able to avoid injuries earlier in his career (minimal injuries in 2013), he could have gotten on the field a bit more and perhaps boosted his stock higher than where it is now. Also, he doesn’t have one high level physical aspect of his game – he’s not particularly big, he runs well but isn’t on the high end in comparison to his peers, runs good routes but not outstanding ones. I could see him catching 60-70 passes and around 1,000 yards somewhere – a solid second option for a passing team.

This sounds like a reasonable corroboration of our evaluation. An important thing to note is that Neal said 60-70 receptions and around 1,000 yards as a solid second option for a “passing” team. The Jets don’t project to be a “passing” team in 2014. I’d say his ceiling in our offense would be 55-60 receptions for 750-800 yards, with 4-6 touchdowns. 

JASON WORILDS (Check out our free agency primer for linebackers here and below for additional thoughts)

It’s been a night and day career for Jason Worilds to this point. While seemingly out of nowhere he blew up over the second half of the 2013 season, he had made, at best, a moderate impact in Pittsburgh through his first 3.5 seasons. The Steelers selected Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and immediately flung him into competition with Worilds for the team’s starting left outside linebacker position. Jones would eventually take the starting job away from Worilds, but neither had much success rushing off the left offensive edge. Eventually Worilds would gain the job back, and his three biggest impact games – Weeks 11-13 against Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore – were against right tackles who are, at best, marginal NFL players. Caveat emptor with Worilds, for sure, and I think he’d be best trying to get something of a shorter deal and a guarantee of a starting job from the Steelers than to sign elsewhere. His production over the final seven games of the 2013 season was against suspect competition and well above his career average.

A red flag review of Worilds from Neal, which makes you feel hesitant about throwing big money at a player who seemed to aggregate stats over a handful of games against suspect offensive lines. From the free agency estimates I’ve seen, it sounds like Worilds is going to get paid on the assumption that he can ascend to a double digit sack player with a full time role in the proper defense. Do I think Rex can get 10 sacks out of him? Hey, he got 10 out of Calvin Pace last season but I’m not sure Worilds is going to merit the type of big money contract a team will throw at him.

  • Harold

    Joe:

    I ahve been telling you this the past month.

    No Jason Worilds, he is just another guy.

    No thank you, As I mentioned if you are going to spend anywhere near that money go after Orakpo, much better track record. His sacks are solid but his pressure generated has been excellent his entire career.

  • Bart

    Worilds sounds alot like Paul Kruger from last year…Don’t overpay him based on a small sample of good performances.

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  • KAsh

    I am starting to feel like a parrot: you cannot get the best FA at every position. Worilds is not a young DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, or James Harrison. If he was, we could not afford him. We also do not need Worilds to be the next great 3-4 OLB.

    The long-term strategy has always been to build through the draft. But we have two problems: 1) Rookies need time to adjust to the pro level and develop their skills before they can be relied upon on the field, and, in general, the further back they are drafted, the more time they need. 2) We have no starters or backups at the position to play in place of a rookie that should eventually succeed him.

    We need to move on from archaeological curiosity Calvin Pace – who got 10 sacks last year, but only earned a quarter of those – and get a guy who can set the edge, drop into coverage, and still rush the passer, but in that order. Pace was unblocked for 1.5 sacks last year, which means that on one occasion, another of our pass rushers managed to break through in the time it took Pace to run to the QB. We would be completely fine with Pace, if he was even just two-three years younger. On the base level, we need an average linebacker that is dangerous enough to get our beasts more one-on-ones or make our opponent’s pay if they assign just a right tackle or tight end to block him. If he is explosive and can get QBs scrambling from the snap, that is an added bonus.

    Worilds fits what we need: a cheaper FA OLB that is explosive, but is a jack-of-all-trades. He was stuck for many years behind two Pro Bowlers, and he missed two training camps in his four years in the league. As a LB, “Meh” on the Steelers is “WOW” on the Jets. He may or may not be golden, but he can give us two-three solid years before we find and develop a next-gen successor. Then, you can cut Worilds, trade him, or keep him and trade his backup.

  • John X

    I think Worilds would be a great fit on this defense that currently gets an inside push/pressure like no other in the league. Coupled with Coples on the other end, I don’t think an elite player is needed here but instead, a rugged, athletic, punishing hitter who flashes pass rush and strength to collapse the pocket.
    Worilds has been doing it all since thrust into the starting role and the Steelers are going to try to keep him. This can only happen if they cut Woodley – so watch for that.

    My only concern is that his price will go up too much since the market is thin at this position. He would bring even more physicality to the run defense but is only a moderate coverage guy.

    The alternative is to go either late 2nd day or early 3rd day pick here since we have Barnes returning and possibly Pace.

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  • Harold

    No one wants All Pros at every position.

    DO you think it is better to spend 7-8 million per on Worilds or on Sam Shields who has performed at a higher level over a longer period of time.

    I don’t want All Pro’s I want goo football players.

    This guy is the 2014 Calvin Pace. Do you want to pay 48 million over 6 years for this guy?

    Just don’t see the logic.

    Barnes is a much better pass rusher than this guy for 1/4 the money. No need to overpay for this guy.

  • Harold

    Also Worilds hasn’t been some terror off the edge, he has been very pedestrian.

    C’mon guys, this guy is no game changer. For 8 million dollars that what you are paying for.

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  • John X

    I think Worilds does more than simply flash a pass rush. And is a pass rusher all that the team needs? I’m not sure – we do still have Barnes returning.

    I don’t think the question involving Worilds was one if I preferred him over addressing CB. So that’s not relevant. The Jets have upwards of 50M (if Harris is also cut) in cap space – they don’t have to be limited to signing one guy. That’s not even resembling the point here.

    I still think he’s a good fit but I can take him or leave him – if his price inflates, I’d pass and not lose sleep. It might be the better route to address OLB on the 3rd day (as I mentioned). I see higher needs on the first two days being addressed.

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  • KAsh

    The question is: would you rather have Worilds for $7-8 million/yr (with a contract that makes him cuttable in two-three years) or Orakpo for almost twice Worild’s cost? I consider Orakpo in this defense only a modest improvement over Worilds in this defense, so the additional money that would go to Orakpo, which would keep us from signing another FA, is inexcusable.

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  • Lidman

    Kash,

    Why do you consider Orakpo only a ‘mild improvement’? He’s played 7 more career games, he has 21 more career sacks and 50 more solo tackles in 7 more career games.

    Look, no doubt you have to pay up to get Orakpo here. But, at least his history illustrates a consistency you can rely on. I’d rather pay up for that, then give Worilds $7-8mm, largely based on him getting 7, of his 18 career sacks, in the past 7 games. You do that and he plays like Jason Worilds, from his 1st 50 games, you put yourself in cap hell.

  • Lidman

    Fwiw, I doubt Orakpo leaves Washington. I’m not against Worilds, but I am at that price.

    In fact, I think it’s amusing Kash believes Worilds will get $7-8mm, and Hakeem Nicks will ‘only’ get $3-5mm.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    Orakpo is only a mild improvement over Worilds because the position is a cakewalk on the Jets. Whoever is there will face one-on-ones with either a tight end or a right tackle on close to 90% of all snaps. This is linebacking 101, any halfway decent pass rusher should be able to excel at it, but conversely it is hard to improve beyond a base number and the difference between elites and second-tier players greatly diminishes. For example, if your job is very simple, many people can do it and it is also hard to see the difference between someone very skilled and someone just average. The fact is, for simple tasks, there is no difference between highly skilled employees and grunts, which is why they can be assigned to computers. (And when you get beyond all the drivel about them being “smart,” computers are only good at repetitive, menial labor of the mental variety, and need beings with a higher understanding to give their actions meaning. In AI theory, this is referenced by the Chinese Room problem.) Worilds might be a JUG, but he can do everything we need of him only slightly worse than a grade A pass rusher. He also has a chance to become a good pass rusher, if something goes wrong.

    As for Nicks and Worilds relative value, Worilds is one of two-three decent pass rushers in FA, and I am including Pace in that list. Nicks has had two years where he has gotten worse and worse. The only chance Nicks has for a decent contract is if he can convince two teams to start a bidding war for him. Otherwise, I do not see a large demand and even his own team seems iffy about resigning him.

  • Lidman

    Nicks’ team can’t really afford him with the many needs they have, but that’s a different argument. On the OLB position, you call it a ‘cake walk’ because he’ll get ’1 on 1s’ all the time. Has Worilds been double teamed for the majority of his career? I’ll bet Orakpo has seen doubles…a lot.

    I think of it this way: if Pace got 10 sacks, largely on the QB holding the ball too long, and his DL forcing people his way, how disruptive is a real pass rushing threat, like Orakpo going to do? On top of that, how many teams will shift the double team Orakpo’s way, freeing Coples, Sheldon or Wilkerson in a 1 on 1? Is Worilds going to do that? Further, Orakpo is good against the run, and setting the edge-which is big deal in Rex’ run D.

    You talk about the DLine creating opportunities for others. Why not bring in talent that can create opportunities for them too. We KNOW Orakpo has been a good pass rusher in the NFL, based on his 64 games. We hope Worilds, with the NYJ personnel, will continue to develop/build on last year’s performance. However, I do know, day 1, his presence doesn’t make a OC/OL coach think about who to block 1 on 1. The more options you have, the better you’ll be.

  • KAsh

    Orakpo’s reputation is largely the reason why he will cost twice as much.

  • Lidman

    Orakpo’s performance has earned that reputation. If Paul Kruger got 20mm guaranteed, and 40mm for 5 yrs..Orakpo is a better player than Kruger, let alone Worilds. Again, he creates match up issues for an OC/OL coach.

  • KAsh

    But that reputation is of no use on the Jets. OCs and OL cannot double team Orakpo, because they already have to double team Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, and Coples. On two different occasions last year, the blockers forgot to account for a STARTING (!) outside LB. Unless someone gets hurt, it does not matter if you have a world-class pass rusher or just a guy; as long as he is fast and is not a liability against the run or in coverage, you are going to have the best guy possible at the position. Signing Orakpo is using a cannon when a rifle will do the same job.

  • Lidman

    Really, a ‘rifle’ will do that same job? If the NYJ had Orakpo last year, do you think they would have given up as many big plays down the field…plays that take time to develop? I love the young DLine, and believe they’ll be great. However, fact is, if you look at most advanced metrics, they didn’t generate consistent pressure. They play a 3-4, where the NTs primary responsibility is stopping the run, so he’s very rarely going to be doubled, in pass protection. 3-4 DEs also have a primary ‘run first’ responsibility. It’s the OLB position where you need a pass rush to be a constant.

    You and I simply look at this differently. If I have a ‘cannon’ opposite Coples-who we all like and believe will be very good, but at this point has peformed no better than average-it creates more mismatches up front. It makes the opposing QB have to focus more on his protection schemes, at the LOS-where is the pressure coming from? If you simply put a ‘rifle’ on that side, the QB has fewer pre-snap decisions to make because his protection schemes are more clearly defined.

    A number of people, on these comment boards, have complained about he coverage skills of the NYJ ILBs. If you get to the QB in less than 3 seconds (which Pace wasn’t), a lot of those crossing patterns don’t have time to develop.

    Finally, if the NYJ had an Orakpo-type (again, much of this is moot because I don’t think he’ll leave Washington) OLB/Pass rusher and he was consistently beating his man, 1 on 1, you can bet your bottom dollar the opposing OC/OL coach would alter the protection schemes to block, or chip, him, no matter who was on the NYJ DL-that’s common sense. The higher the talent level, the better the team will be.

    It’s a passing league and the best way to defend the pass is pressuring the QB, see the 2 NYG SB wins, or this last SB. The more options you have, the more effective you’ll be and the fewer points you’ll give up.
    In the NFL you need as many ‘cannons’ as you can get. The level of preparation, good teams put in, can often neutralize an opponent’s best options. If you have too many ‘best options’, that task becomes nearly impossible.

    Take Seattle, you double Bennett, you leave Avril and Clemons 1 on 1. You bring in a TE, or have a RB chip and then they can bring McDonald, Wagner, Irvin, Chancellor or Thomas, on a blitz, plus you take 1 receiver out of the patter. While they’re doing all this, up front, they have press corners, and one of their safeties is a ‘robber’ position that neutralize the quick, 3 step, drops that would use their own aggressiveness agains them.

    It sounds easy, but the only reason it works, for Seattle, is because they have more ‘cannons than ‘rifles’.

  • KAsh

    But everything you said about if Orakpo was on this team last year still holds true if it was Worilds.

  • Lidman

    I disagree. Worilds hasn’t proven to be a competent pass rusher, but for the last 7 games of this season. In my opinion, I see Worilds as being little to no upgrade to Pace. Pace made 955k, and you’re suggesting Worilds gets 7mm…big difference there.

    My point remains, putting a Pro Bowl caliber player in Pace’s spot would make that front 7 that much more harder to face.

  • Gerard Davis section 101 row 7

    My christmas is from pittsburgh steelers sanders,worilds from eagles vick and that great receiver mcclien