Joe Blewett is back with his 2017 Film Review of Darron Lee! Don’t miss Joe’s new podcast with Kyle Smith, “TOJ Film Room,” coming to TOJ Digital in July!
Bills run outside zone from 12 personnel. Lee (7 tech) on right side, does a good job holding the edge, keeping his arms extended to keep the TE off of him and then getting back inside when the RB gets into the c-gap.
Lee (right side of screen between hashes) is in man on the Y-TE. As the ball is snapped Lee reacts hard outside giving the TE easy inside leverage on the crossing route. Lee gets back on the TE but is too focused on the QB and loses the TE as he cuts. Would have given up a TD.
Bills run inside zone-split from 11 personnel gun set. Lee on right edge looks like he keys on the split blocker. Jumps inside and losses his edge containment, Shady bounces it outside as Jenkins penetrates the backside b-gap. A gain of little to no yards turns into a 20+ gain.
Bills run inside zone from 12 personnel to the weak side. Lee (will) approaches the LOS waiting to wait to see if Shady cuts through the backside a-gap even though Davis has it covered. Allowing shady to hit the b-gap for a big gain. Lee needs to put himself in better position.
Bills in a 2×2 gun set. Lee is in man on the Y-TE. As the TE eats up the cushion heading for Lee. Lee stands straight up and takes the punch from the TE instead of delivering it. Lee losses balance as a result and losses the TE as he breaks on the out. TE drops the ball/fumbles.
Another 2×2 gun set. Jets run cover 1 with a slot blitz. Lee is in man on the Y-TE. As the TE works upfield, Lee leans into him with no power or base. The TE leans into him and breaks out on his out route. Lee losses balance again and the TE is open.
This play was a shit show for the entire Jets defense but we will focus on Lee. The Bills sell the fake handoff well, as the o-line flows right the Jets defense follows. The TE works across the formation on the y-throwback. Lee is late to recognize and the TE is wide open.
Lee (lined up on the strong side) flows with the offensive line as they work to the outside on the toss. Lee lowers his shoulder and takes on the block of the TE, throwing him backwards and makes the TKFL on Shady.
Lee (will) doesn’t stay patient, picks the wrong gap and approaches the LOS too soon before the RB picks his gap. Lee also isn’t able to stack and shed the LG coming off of the deuce combo block and the duo run. Big hole in the c-gap that the RB hits.
Just Lee getting pancaked by a TE (playing FB on this play). One of Lee’s biggest problems is how he takes blows instead of delivering them. Is also coming into the block extremely off-balanced and has a base that is impossible to generate power from.
Raiders run weak outside zone. Lee (will) gets taken out of the play easily by the RT coming off of the deuce combo block. Lee is never going to be able to stack and shed an o-lineman unless he gets a good base and uses some type of leverage.
Raiders motion into a wing set on the left making Lee the mike. Sloppy from the Raiders in terms of blocking but Lee does a good job flowing with the play, working through the block of the TE and making an athletic tackle for no gain.
Raiders in 12 personnel. The outermost TE on the left checks and releases on a drag route. Lee (will) is in a hook zone but starts to drift out of his zone and Carr rolls out right. Almost allowing a big gain.
Lee (mike) doesn’t maintain his gap responsibly as he drifts inside. Too often see him drift away from contact putting himself in bad position. Here allows the WR to seal him inside on the crack block as the RB bounces outside.
Lee sits back in his zone as he is reading Carr’s eyes. As Carr snaps his head to look at the RB leaking out on the screen, Lee recognizes the screen is coming. Accelerates to make the tackle to allow only a short gain.
Lee (mike) is on the backside of the inside zone weak. As he approaches the LOS he again gives into the block coming from the LT coming off of the George combo block. Lee’s legs are near straight, generating no power and lets the OT get into him. Makes an athletic tackle though.
Lee drops back in his hook zone, the RB works through the line on his sit route. Lee shows good speed closing the distance on the RB and makes a big time hit.
11 personnel gun set. Lee (will) is in man on Ajayi and Ajayi runs an arrow route. As Ajayi eats up the cushion Lee is standing flat footed and has a base so wide that he isn’t going to be able to change direction quickly in any direction. Lee then trips as Ajayi cuts outside.
Lee in man on the RB, follows him out of the backfield on his route. The boundary WR runs a hitch/curl and breaks the tackle of Claiborne. Lee notices it and runs towards the WR who is FALLING DOWN. Throws a weak shot with terrible form and the WR breaks it.
Jags runs a mesh-flat 7 concept from 21 personnel in I-weak left. Lee is manned up on Fournette, who runs a flat route. Lee is late to run/match Fournette horizontally and is also late to notice the traffic he is about to work through. Lack of playing smarts/awareness here.
Lee (will) is unblocked and works towards the a-gap. When he sees the RB working towards the same the same gap with little room to create Lee needs to burst through the hole and make the tackle. Instead he hesitates allowing the RB to bounce outside.
Lee who is pressing the LOS is in man coverage on the Y-TE. Instead of shuffling outside with a good base. He hops outside with little to no base, then gets caught reaching/leaning into the TE. Allowing the TE the get physical and completely throw him off balance.
Jags run power from 22 personnel, Lee follows the FB and the pulling RG into the hole and makes the tackle. But this play is made by McLendon (my guy) as he quickly swims the attempted combo block from the LG and penetrates into the B-gap not allowing the RG to hit his spot.
Browns run the inverted veer from the diamond pistol set in 30 personnel. Lee follows the back working across the formation into the play side c gap. As he approaches the LOS he shows some nice athleticism to avoid the back and get in on the tackle.
Jets in a 3-3-5. Browns run what looks like an under concept underneath. Lee drops back into his hook zone and matches the WR coming from the right of the screen nicely. Then shows great speed to close the gap on Kizer as he scramble, just doesn’t finish the play as he lets up.
Browns run a pitch from 21 personnel with misdirection. LG pulls right and FB goes right as well. Leo trap blocked by the center, Bishop left unblocked as browns think Crowell can beat to edge (he does). LT assignment is Lee but he falls for the misdirection and is out of play.
Browns run a inside zone from the gun. Lee (mike) attacks the mesh point as the ball is snapped bringing him into the play side b-gap and makes the tackle for no gain.
Browns run a lead mid zone from 21 personnel I-formation. Lee (will) reads the flow of the FB/offensive line and sees the RB aiming point. Then uses his speed to shoot the play side a-gap for the TKFL.
Lee has a golden chance to lay a big hit/get a TKFL as he is unblocked and shoots the b-gap. But he comes in high and off-balance with his feet crossing over each other and with an angle slightly too far to the outside. Misses the tackle and Lewis spins him back inside.
Patriots run a sweep to the weak side out of 21 personnel I-strong right. Lee (will) follows the RG and FB, then attacks them behind the LOS not allowing the play to develop. Fights through the block of the FB and makes the tackle.
Pats run a weak mid zone. Lee (will) gets cut blocked by the center but shows good athleticism/effort to get back up and chase down the RB. Forces the fumble as the RB holds the ball farther away from his body on his jump cut inside away from Maye. Effort leads to the Lee getting the forced fumble.
Lee in man on Gronk and has good position on his inside hip. As Gronk turns to locate the ball , so does Lee. Unfortunately not sure if Lee sees it or is just trying to play Gronk instead of the ball. Would like to see Lee get his outside arm higher here to impede Gronks arms.
Pats in 21 personnel. Run a lead belly zone, Lee (will) notices the RB’s aiming point and attacks the a-gap. The RB cuts back into the opposite b-gap (play is meant to be cut back), Lee gets around Pennel then squares his hips to the RB and cuts him off for the tackle.
Still baffles my mind that this wasn’t a PI but Adams got called for a bogus PI earlier in the game. Lee is in man on ground who is the Y-TE on the field side. Lee sticks to his inside pocket in the seam but never locates the ball and jumps into Gronk. Easy pass interference call.
See Lee frequently get pulled up and out of position on play-action or most types of misdirections. Here gets pulled out of his hook zone and Gronk is open on the crossing route.
2nd play of this. Last time Lee was taken to his knees. Lee takes on the FB head on but has no base, is standing up high, doesn’t get under his pads, isn’t using his arms and gets driven out of the play because of it.
Dolphins run inside zone from 12 personnel. This play is made by McLendon (2i) who drives the LG back into the RB’s lane giving him no room to operate. But good to also see Lee beat the center with speed and get into that lane, assisting with the tackle.
Lee (on the left edge) gets off quickly as the ball is snapped. Beats the RT with speed at the RT takes a vertical set. As Lee gets even with the RT, the RT attempts to punch. Lee dips his shoulder to give the RT less of an area to punching shows nice bend. BS penalty though as Cutler ducks his head at the last second, what was Lee suppose to do, completely readjust his angle within 0.01 seconds?
Dolphins in a 3×1 gun set to the field and run a slant/flat concept under a curl from the slot. Lee is a tad late to get on the flat + the natural pick on the slant, allows the completion to be made. But shows some good speed to get out to the sideline forcing the fumble.
Lee (will) gets out quickly on the weak pitch. But he gets a bad face mask call, which stems from him coming in so high. Never want be standing straight up coming into any tackle.
Dolphins run a tight zone from an 11 personnel gun set. Lee (mike over the TE) is quick to get to the RB as he has room after hitting the wide open a-gap. Lee’s burst here saved a potentially big gain.
Dolphins run a slant/flat concept to the weak side. Lee (bottom of screen on right edge) is in man coverage on the RB. As he runs to the flat the X-WR is setting a pick but Lee is late to recognize it. Lee tries to adjust but slips allowing the rec. If Lee stays up its a PI because Stills clearly alters his route to get into Lee’s way.
Dolphins in a 3×1 bunch gun set to the field side and run a pin and pull pitch. Lee (right edge) drifts out towards the sideline to contain the run. As he does Landry cut blocks him. Lee shows good athleticism to get past the cut, plant and get the tackle.
Dolphins in a 3×1 gun set and run a crease concept inside on the field side. Jets are in cover 1 hole. Lee gets a lack of depth in his zone as Moore looks him off, allowing the completion to the dig over the middle.
Dolphins run a weak tight zone out of 11. Lee (mike) is fast to diagnose and get to the playside, beating the LG (coming off of the George combo block) with speed as the LG tries to seal Lee to the backside. RB cuts it back as Jenkins blows up the edge. Lee shows nice balance.
Would have like to see the Jets coaches do this more last season and hope to see them use it more in 2018. The best way to blitz Lee isn’t off the edge, its on stunt blitzes. Reason being stunts keep him clean where off the edge he still has to beat the OT. Speed leads to Lee getting the hit.
Jets in cover 1.Dolphins in a 3×1 gun set and run Landry on a slant from the inside slot. Lee gets a tough match in man vs Landry. As the ball is snapped Lee opens his hips to the sideline to get to Landry but never transitions back parallel to LOS. Getting inside on the break is beyond easy for Landry here.
Lee drops into his hook zone and is reading the QB’s eyes. Stills runs a drag from the right side of the screen. Lee shows a lack of awareness to not the drag is behind him and to carry it father. Gives the QB a window to hit Stills for the TD.
Lee in man on the Y-TE here. Would like to see shuffle instead of flip completely inside. Also some poor hand placement here, needs to gets his hands on the TE’s chest or at least on his shoulder. Instead Lee gets his hands on the elbow and wrist. TE gets away for should be TD.
Falcons run a power lead to the strong side out of 21 personnel. Lee does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield and scraping down the LOS, gets the tackle for little gain.
Falcons run a power lead to the strong side out of 21 personnel. Lee does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield and scraping down the LOS, gets the tackle for little gain.
Really nice stunt blitz execution. Lee is stacked behind Wilkerson who is the 2i tech. Something hard to notice but very important/what makes this play work. Notice how when Wilkerson crosses the face of the RG he drags along that outside arm. Not allowing the RG to get to Lee.
Falcons run a lead belly zone. Lee initially presses towards the LOS but then makes his way to the other side of the formation as the RB cuts the run back. Instead of going for the tackle, Lee tries to punch the ball out costing the Jets 40 yards.
Bills run lead power to the strong side. Lee follows the pulling RG while keeping his eyes on where the RB is going. Then stays outside in the d-gap, leading to the tackle.
Bills in a gun set in 11 personnel. Lee (mike) is in a spy on Tyrod when he then sees an open lane to run in for a sack. That speed is always useful to getting to the QB.
Bills run outside zone weak out of a jumbo wing set. Lee reads the play quick and burst to get to the outside. Getting good leverage on the LG, as the LG approaches Lee, Lee dips his shoulder giving the LG less surface area to strike. Gets past the block and tracks to make the tackle.
Lee drops back in his hoo zone, the RB leaks out of the backfield on the check route. Lee gets on it a little late and also comes into the tackle way too high and doesn’t get his head across his body. Leads to the missed tackle.
Bucs run a weak lead zone out of I weak right. Lee (mike) takes himself out of the play by just running to the outside, calling the RB to cutback. Instead of stacking, keeping eyes in backfield, shedding and making the tackle (or at least being in better position to).
Bucs run a sweep to the strong side. Lee (mike) gets caught looking in the backfield, instead of flowing with the o-line and is out of position to make a play on the RB. If the pulling OC was smart this easily could have been a TD.
Didn’t like to see this at all. Lee rushes through the a-gap on this pay action pass and is meet by the RB who is staying in to block. Instead of trucking through the RB, taking him out of the play and maybe even the QB. He softens up, doesn’t even get his hands up for a PD.
Lee (mike) drifts back into his hook zone. Follows Fitz eyes (who is staring at the WR) and almost getting the INT.
Panthers in a tight inverted slot formation to the bottom of the screen. Jets in cover 1 man with Lee in man on the RB. The RB leaks out of the backfield on an arrow/option route. Lee doesn’t get overtop of the RB with leverage way too far inside. Giving the RB an easy break outside for the easy catch.
Panthers in 11 personnel, Cam drops back and then runs on this QB draw. Lee drops back into his hook zone, reacts inside as Cam looks like he is cutting through the opposite b-gap. Cam cuts back, Lee avoids the block and shows his athleticism to make the tackle.
Jets “sugar the a-gap”. Lee blitzes through said a-gap and is met by the RB. Lee doesn’t get nearly low enough but shows effort to work through the block. Then shows more great effort to chase down Cam to get the sack.
Panthers in an empty set, utilizing the RB in the inside slot. RB runs a quick inn, Lee drops back into his hook zone. Lee follows Newtons eyes into the middle as Cam comes to his read in the middle. Lee most likely would have got the INT if Wilkerson didn’t get the PD.
Broncos run a strong lead sweep out of 22 personnel. Lee (will) follows the blockers to the play side. Does a good job staying patient in the cutback lane while shuffling, leading to the tackle.
Broncos run a weak counter from 13 personnel. Lee (will) scrapes down the los and fills the play side d-gap waiting for the RB to come to him. RB comes and Lee makes the tackle. Play would have looked different if the TE coming from the strong side didn’t trip.
Putting this up to highlight Lee’s tackling form. As the RB bounces it outside on the draw, Lee is in position to make the tackle. But frequently we see Lee come into tackles way too high with poor form. Being undersized and having poor form leads to many missed tackles.
Saints run a jet sweep to Lee’s side (the strong side). Lee shows off his speed here catching #11 in the open field.
Lee is man on Ingram. But is late to react to him working to the flat as he is looking at him at the snap off the ball. Lee is in full sprint to recover opening himself up for any in breaking route. Very lucky this was a pivot route and not an angle route.
Saints in a 3×1 gun set to the field side. Lee is in man on Kamara in the backfield. As Kamara works vertically on the option route towards Lee. Lee is caught flat footed/not working to get hands on Kamara, Kamara breaks inward for the TD. Never going to make a play flat footed, even if you do run a 4.4.
Saints run a screen to the weak side. Lee (will) flows with the offensive lineman coming out and then breaks in on the RB when Brees throws the ball. Lee shows some great athleticism getting around the OC with the swipe, bend and dive for the tackle.
Showing the tackling/tracking/angle problem again. Lee (mike) gets into the backfield quick but is taking an angle too far outside. Needs to track the near/upfield hip, also comes into way too high and clunky, with no base so he has no COD speed. Leads to another missed tackle.
Saints in 11 personnel. Ingram comes out on his check route, Lee comes to make the tackle after the catch is made. Again Lee is taking an angle thats too flat, allowing Ingram to spin back inside of Lee.
This was beyond bad. Lee is on the strong side of this run, with the FB coming right at him. Instead of taking him on, Lee jumps/sits backwards? He NEEDS to take this on and squeeze the run inside. Or at the minimum make it a smaller hole for the RB. Leads to the 50 yard TD.
Chargers in an empty set, bunch gun to the field and inverted slot to the boundary. On the boundary the Chargers run a China concept. Lee is in a hook on the boundary side. As the outside WR crosses over on the inn, Lee has no idea the WR is coming because he is just looking at the QB and has no idea who is entering his zone.
Bad coverage here from Lee. Chargers in I weak right 21 personnel and run play action out of it. Lee is in man on the FB. FB works through the line and to the flat on his route. Lee losses him as he is staring at the QB not his man. Lets up a 20+ yard gain.
These stunts worked often for the Jets. Jets in a 2-4-5 look and send Lee and Davis on a stunt blitz (+ of having only 2 down lineman is the rush can come from anywhere). Davis crosses the face of the OC opening space for Lee to come through. Who uses his speed to get to Rivers.
Chargers in a gun set and send Allen in motion. Lee thinks they are going to him on the swing pass and leaves his zone. Opening up space for Gordon to take it 40 yards on the screen.
Lee jumps inside as his distracted by the fake jet sweep. Effectively sealing himself inside where he didn’t even need a blocker. Opening up a huge hole on the outside for Gordon on the pitch.
Lee does show off his athleticism at times. Here penetrates the backfield quickly as he throws a shoulder fake to the OC and then bending around him to make the tackle.
Last play of the review. Chargers run a inside zone-split Lee (mike) to the field side. Lee shoots the a-gap but yet again is coming in high/off-balance and with no base to change direction and misses the tackle.
In conclusion, Lee has so far been a disappointment as the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and has much to prove going into his 3rd year in the NFL. However, there is hope (minimal) that Lee will improve, as he is still relatively new to the position. He has only been in the position for 4 years (2 at OSU and 2 in the NFL), and he played QB and Safety in high school. I would be content with Lee developing into a just average starter as a weak inside linebacker, or even being able to hold off Kevin Minter who I believe is the better linebacker at this point (having had Todd Bowles’ as a defensive coordinator in Arizona). My main reason for doubting Lee is that he still looks like a rookie in many key areas including: awareness, angles, tackling form, leverage, hand usage, etc. I was also very disappointed in how Lee finished the 2017 season. He started the year off extremely poorly versus the Bills and Raiders, but then slowly started to bounce back until he had a decent string of games in the middle of the season. I was hoping he would continue to grow on that, but unfortunately he regressed versus the Saints and the Chargers late in the season. Lee has a big 2018 ahead of him for a couple of reasons. He needs to hold down his starting job, ensure that he avoids being cut or traded after this year (which is entirely possible), and needs to work towards getting that 5th year extension. If the Jets want to get the most usage out of Lee this year, I believe they need to do a few key things. First, Lee should be kept out of zone coverage because he has very little awareness of depth in his zones, and who’s coming in and out of his zones. He also gets lost in the QB’s eyes (dreamy). Secondly, he should be used more on stunt blitzes. On stunt blitzes, whether it be a defensive lineman or another linebacker, they will typically cross the face of an offensive lineman, moving the lineman from their spot. By allowing a big gap for Lee to go through, and with Lee’s speed, he is usually able to hit those gaps quickly, not giving the offensive lineman sufficient enough time to recover. Lee could also rush off the edge (wouldn’t be as effective) because he does have pure speed. However, it must be taken into consideration that any good offensive tackle should be able to shut him down despite of his speed. The bottom line is that at his current capabilities, Lee lacks the technique, leverage, or any sufficient counter move to combat an offensive lineman who has prepared for what Lee brings to the table.
- Loose hips
- Quick feet
- Change of direction speed
- Can bounce off partial blocks
- Gets skinny in gaps
- Good at following pullers (but that also gets him in trouble at times)
- Creeps towards line of scrimmage too early
- Bad angles
- Easy to move with eyes
- Too focused on QB in man coverage, losing his man.
- Susceptible to allowing cut backs
- Susceptible to falling for mis direction/play action
- Isn’t good off the edge due to lack of strength, moves or counter moves
- Gets antsy waiting in gaps
- Awareness (especially in zone coverage)
- Will mistakingly leave his zone in zone
- Drifts away from contact
- Leans/reaches for man in coverage
- Gets caught flat footed in coverage
- Comes into tackles high and off balance too often
- Doesn’t drive through tackles
- Tackling form
- Hand placement in coverage, when stacking and when rushing