Today we finish up the defensive preview of the New York Jets roster with a look at the outside linebackers. In case you missed it (HOW DARE YOU), here is our breakdown of the defensive tackles, defensive ends, inside linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties…
Calvin Pace #97 – 869 defensive snaps (79 percent) – 53 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 passes defensed
It feels like Pace has been lumbering off the edge for the Jets defense for about twenty years. Many thought he was done before 2013 but Pace came back on a one year deal and had his best statistical season since coming to New York, earning himself another one year contract in the process. Chris Nimbley wrote an excellent column this offseason outlining his value to Rex Ryan’s defense. Yes, his 10 sacks were absurdly quiet and yes he isn’t the most explosive player at this point of his career but Pace adds unquestionable value to the Jets outside linebacker position…still all these years later. If Antwan Barnes and Quinton Coples can stay healthy or somebody like Jermaine Cunningham or Trevor Reilly can step up, Pace’s snap count should drop a bit, particularly in pass rush situations.
Quinton Coples #98 – 817 defensive snaps (74 percent) – 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 passes defensed
Coples got injured in the pre-season last year and didn’t begin looking anywhere near 100% until around the Jets week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints. With his physical talent, there is no reason he shouldn’t be a 9-12 sack per season guy in Ryan’s defense. The Jets badly need him to stay healthy and be consistent, despite frequently being moved around the formation. If Coples can become the pass rusher the team drafted him to be, the entire defense should reach a different level of production. Through two seasons, Coples has flashed and flashed but hasn’t strung together enough quality games to avoid being called a mild disappointment to this point. This is a huge season for the former first round pick as a potential x-factor on the Jets defense.
Antwan Barnes #95 – 145 defensive snaps (13 percent) – 3 tackles, 2 sacks
Barnes was lost for the season in the Jets week 5 game against Atlanta, hurting the team’s ability to generate pressure off the edge. There has been mixed reports about his health status for training camp as he returns from knee surgery. If healthy, Barnes can be a difference maker in the team’s sub packages and as a situational player. However, if he isn’t 100 percent this August, it isn’t out of the question that he could lose his roster spot to somebody like Jermaine Cunningham or Trevor Reilly. He isn’t quite the x-factor that Coples is but a healthy Barnes could be a 6-8 sack type player in this defense as purely a pass rusher.
Garret McIntyre #50 – 256 defensive snaps (23 percent) – 19 tackles, 2 sacks
A competent backup who is comfortable in the Jets defense and is a solid contributor on special teams. Ideally, McIntyre should never be playing more than around 10% of the defensive snaps in a given season but injuries hit the Jets in 2013 and pushed him into a slightly bigger role. Reilly provides direct competition to his role on the team. It would be mildly surprising to see both of them stick on the final 53.
Jermaine Cunningham #55 – 7 defensive snaps
A former New England Patriot who the team signed last November, Cunningham was a second round pick in 2010 who has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his brief career. There is an intriguing skill-set here but a reasonable concern about him staying healthy and being able to make a strong enough impression this summer to stick on the final 53. If Barnes isn’t healthy, Cunningham will have an opportunity for a longer look and might be able to bump him off the roster.
Trevor Reilly – Rookie
The team’s seventh round pick who we discussed right here. Reilly was nice value where he was selected and has a better chance of sticking than a handful of the players taken in front of him. Like any late round linebacker, he needs to make an impact on special teams to avoid the practice squad or being cut this summer.
IK Enemkpali – Rookie
I probably should have included him with the defensive ends but what can I say – I wanted Wilkerson and Richardson to have their own separate article. I don’t see how IK sticks on the Jets roster in 2014. I could be underestimating the sixth round pick but he has an uphill battle to finding a spot on both the team’s final 53 and their practice squad.
SCALDING HOT 2014 OUTSIDE LINEBACKER TAKE – Pace has another solid season, although he only plays roughly 60% of the snaps and has 5-6 sacks. Coples takes a step in the right direction, playing in 16 games and finishing with 8.5 sacks. Reilly beats out McIntyre for a roster spot and Cunningham beats out Barnes for a roster spot, due to him being unable to get 100% healthy during training camp (let’s hope I’m wrong and Barnes is ready to roll this summer).