While yesterday was disappointing on many fronts, the lack of efficiency with the New York Jets starting defense was the most apparent. Alex Smith dinked and dunked up and down the field. After that series, Colt McCoy passed on the defense with ease against starters, while throwing to the likes of the dangerous Trey Quinn (the last pick of this year’s draft).
Meanwhile our first pick of the draft from 2016 was getting man handled by offensive linemen, leading to a huge gain by Samaje Perine. He couldn’t cover the 5,000 year old Vernon Davis on multiple occasions and looked lost all around.
Most were fans of the Darron Lee pick and thought he would be the Swiss Army knife for this defense. Most have been convinced going into this t he would turn the page on his lackluster first two years. He’s only 23, he’s just learning the position and he is explosive. Todd Bowles was letting him call the plays and he was vocal about being a leader and helping the team change it’s culture.
Unfortunately yesterday was a reminder that he just isn’t an inside linebacker and that shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. He was a quarterback in high school and played safety the first two seasons at Ohio State. Even though he’s tried to bulk up, he can only add so much to his frame. You also would hope he doesn’t compromise his speed by trying to put on too much weight like Lorenzo Mauldin. It’s obvious that Darron Lee is out of position and with the preseason success of Neville Hewitt and Kevin Minter, it would make more sense to platoon them at the position as opposed to forcing Lee in there.
Lee does offer a skillset that can still be valuable. While he has had lapses in coverage, he is one of the more athletic defenders we have and he should be utilized in the Jets pass rush. He is undersized but his speed is needed to compliment the other plodding linebackers the Jets have. He would be a good compliment to inside rush that Leonard Williams, Nathan Sheppard, Mike Pennell and Henry Anderson look to establish as well. He could also be used in a Mark Barron way where he is a safety/linebacker hybrid. Lee could cover occasionally but pass rushing should be the main focus for him moving forward. We have no speed off the edge and Lee has that in spades. Blitzing him would help put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks and provide some positive usage from his skillset.
All in all I don’t think that it is time to give up on Darron Lee, he is still young and does have some appealing traits. It is concerning that we chose him over proven pass rushers like Noah Spence or Yannick Ngakoue who are having success but there could be value in using him on the field, it just isn’t at inside linebacker, and the longer it takes the Jets to realize this, the more 30 yard rushes and completions to ancient tight ends, we will see.