The Jets had a tough task at hand facing the mobile Cam Newton on Sunday. While an early injury slowed Newton’s scrambling ability, his arm was more than efficient. The inside linebacking duo of Demario Davis and David Harris had arguably their worst game this season. On the other hand, Quinton Coples continues to turn it on in the second half while Calvin Pace refuses to go off into the sunset of washed up veterans. Lets grade the linebackers from week 15.
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.
I’ve raved about Harris all season, but this was easily his worst game of the year. He looked slow against runs that DeAngelo Williams bounced outside and unaware in the screen game. Late in the first quarter, Cam Newton overthrew a floating screen right towards Harris. Unfortunately he lost his footing and couldn’t grab it, which would have been a game changing play. At times, Carolina’s guards flattened him in the run game. In coverage Harris was a non-factor as usual, sliding over to help way too late. Worst of was how he over sold to the wrong side on DeAngelo William’s 72 yard screen he took for a touchdown, as seen here:
Harris (yellow circle) stops and stares directly at Mike Tolbert (orange circle), the target Cam Newton faked the screen to. Tolbert was not his assignment, DeAngelo Williams (red circle) was.
By the time Harris realizes he is in quick sand, he turns around and gets blocked. If he sheds this block, he has a solid 5 yards ahead of the Williams. Unfortunately, his lack of speed and poor block shedding set him up for disaster.
Harris fails to get to the edge in time, setting Williams free.
While his surprisingly off day was not as obvious as Harris, re-watching the tape was shocking. At times, Davis was either thrown out of the play or pancaked by the Panthers offensive line. He offered very little in coverage throughout the day also, which is disappointing from a player that has the speed to succeed in this area. Davis and Harris have been great all season, they were due for an off day. Unfortunately, it happened against a Panthers team that the Jets needed their best to beat.
Calvin PacePace notched his ninth sack of the season on Sunday. While it was due to excellent coverage from the secondary, I won’t discredit Pace for making a play. He was steady against the run, not overly impressive but not bad where he allowed big gainers. He finished the day with 3 and a half tackles along with the sack. A very average week for Calvin Pace, which is not all that bad.
The lone shining star of the linebackers, Quinton Coples continued his impressive second half of the season. He had a sack, a pass deflection, and four and a half tackles. He was disruptive against both the run and pass. Coples even contained Cam Newton quite well and was the only Jets player to garner consistent pressure. On one play, he eluded two blocks to stop Mike Tolbert in the back field. Tolbert is one of the larger backs in the league, but Coples ripped him down by the shoulders with a diving tackle. On another play, he threw Cam Newton (6’6, 245 pounds) to the ground with one arm. With Coples, it is not about his strength, speed, and ability. It was always about adjusting to a new position and putting it all together. Fortunately for the Jets, it seems that his game has come together.
Linebacker Poised For Week 16 Success: Quinton Coples seems to have the most momentum out of this crew and I do not see that changing this week against Cleveland. Cleveland’s passing attack is quite solid and the Jets will need Coples to disrupt the pocket at all costs. With weather conditions looking to be warm (60 degrees) and rainy, I’m predicting a strip sack for Coples this weekend.
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