After a disappointing blowout loss in Cincinnati where the Jets barely scratched Andy Dalton, Gang Green came to play at home against the Saints. The front seven was the story of the game, making Drew Brees afternoon an absolute nightmare. Lets grade out the linebackers from week nine.
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.
Hardly a blemish on Harris week nine resume, as his main role was to be an enforcer in stopping the run. The secondary was left to cover tight end Jimmy Graham and top pass catching running back Darren Sproles left the game extremely early after suffering a concussion. Harris led the Jets with ten total tackles(1 TFL), holding the Saints ground game to 41 total yards. The Jets front seven became such a force in the trenches that the Saints stopped attempting to run the ball on 3rd and short situations. The Hitman also displayed his usual impressive ability to disrupt screens, albeit one to Pierre Thomas for a first down that he just missed breaking up. Heading into the bye at week ten, David Harris and crew have yet to be run on by any opposition.
Demario DavisI’ve been clamoring for an impact play from Davis all season and he finally snagged one. The second year inside linebacker has been excellent against the run and very solid in coverage, using his sideline to sideline speed. With the superb raw ability Demario posseses, it was just a matter of time before he got his hands on a tipped pass. With four total tackles (ranging on both sides and the middle of the field), a pass deflection and an interception, Davis reeled off another well rounded performance. It would have been interesting to see him match up against Darren Sproles rather than Pierre Thomas, but the young linebacker has completed whatever is asked of him week in and week out.
*Bonus Note: Harris and Davis were both on the field for 100% of the defensive snaps, an impressive feat from the fierce duo.
I’ve been really hard on Calvin Pace on here but I have to give credit where it is due. Pace is clearly the weakest link on a front seven filled with a defensive player of the year candidate (Mo Wilkerson), defensive rookie of the year candidate (Sheldon Richardson), and arguably the best run stuffing nose tackle in the league (Damon Harrison). After his solid week nine performance, Pace rightfully no longer deserves the label as a weak link if he can keep up this kind of play. He had a sack in which he blew past Jimmy Graham (maybe Graham should work on his blocking more than his goal post dunks), a forced fumble, three solo tackles, and three assisted tackles in an excellent effort which shut down New Orleans run game. If Pace keeps this kind of motor going, him and Quinton Coples will be a very dangerous duo off of the edge.
Coples finally had his coming out party, picking an excellent week to show how much of a disruptive force he can be. After a first half where he was stuffed by running backs and very average offensive tackles, Coples was dominant against an established offensive line. He flew off the edge, swimmed inside and out, and most importantly disrupted Drew Brees the entire afternoon. Whenever Muhammad Wilkerson, Calvin Pace, or Sheldon Richardson forced Brees to step in one direction, Coples came flying at him immediately forcing errant throws. Don’t underestimate the hits he put on Brees, as by the end of the game he looked like a shattered quarterback. Jimmy Graham (the Saints best offensive weapon) catches a majority of his passes down the field, but in the second half Coples made sure Brees pocket did not hold up long enough for those routes to develop. He might not have lit up the stat sheet with sacks, but his multiple quarterback hurries and hits made for an excellent day. He also made the biggest play of the game, sniffing out a reverse on 4th and one which caused an eight yard loss. If he keeps this play up, the Jets front seven is practically unstoppable due to too many mismatches.
Ricky Sapp and Troy DavisThis unit didn’t receive many snaps, especially Sapp and Davis who were used off the edge at the end of the game. Sapp was virtually invisible on multiple pass rush attempts. He either gets stood up or takes way too long attempting to run around tackles. On the other hand, Davis actually looked quite impressive. He is not a dynamic pass rusher by any means, but he at least beats his match up when given time. Notably on one play he chased Brees to the sideline and completely threw off his rhythm. Ricky Sapp’s days should be all but done in green and white, but Troy Davis definitely deserves a look as a situational pass rusher (much like Antwan Barnes was).
Grades: 3.0 (Sapp) and 7.0 (Davis)
Linebacker Poised For Week 11 Success: How could one not go with Quinton Coples here? Even if EJ Manuel returns, it’ll be interesting to see how well he moves coming off a tough knee injury. Coples has game changing potential and could take advantage of some poor offensive line match ups in the near future.
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