After a stunning week five win in Atlanta, the Jets are beginning to turn heads in the NFL. A big reason for their surprising success has been the superb play from Rex Ryan’s defense. Team’s are struggling to develop any type of ground game against the Jets, which is also limiting their aerial attack (no development of play action). The Jets linebackers were finally tested against not only the run in week five, but also the pass. Let’s see how they did:
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.
Tony Gonzalez was a menace as he had a great day catching the ball. Not only is Gonzalez still a premier tight end at age 37, the refs keep a keen eye on him. He was held at times, but there were a few instances where the zebras should have “let ‘em play.” It is hard to put a lot of the blame for Gonzalez success on Harris, as most of the tape I watched Harris sat in containment. Matt Ryan isn’t a threat to run, leaving Harris to spy on the running back. Only problem with that, was that the Jets defensive line stormed through the Falcons offensive line, leaving the back to stay put to pick up the pressure. What Harris began to do after noticing this trend was bouncing around his zone, helping other players in coverage. Outside of his passing game, Harris had another solid week against the run. He notched 14 tackles and really looks like a different player this season. Most importantly, Harris doesn’t come off the field. He notched 76 of the 76 defensive snaps. I witnessed him miss at least on tackle, but the rest of his hits were quite vicious. It is official: The “Hitman” is back.
Davis had another solid week notching over seven tackles. Watching him on tape, you really see a young guy developing week after week. He smoothly sheds blocks and wraps up the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage play after play. For a second year player it’s hard to not be impressed by his versatility. He played 73 of the 76 snaps, once again showing he rarely needs to come off the field due to situational weaknesses. A big day from the Falcons tight ends is my only knock on Davis, although he wasn’t given a ton of help in coverage either.
Barnes had a quiet day as he only played 18 snaps before a brutal knee injury in the 4th quarter. He’s not the type of player to fill the stat sheet but his pressure off the edge is consistent week after week. As he has been put on the IR his situational pass rushing skills need to be replaced immediately.
If anything, McIntyre is quite consistent at what he gives you. He’s average as a run defender and average as a pass rusher. He’ll fail to set the edge at times as he is vulnerable to get eaten by blockers, but he throws his weight around. He only played 16 snaps and notched one solo tackle. Great depth/situational player, but he should never be relied on as a starter ever again.
Pace has a legitimate role on this defense, as he logged 55 snaps out of 76 total. Only problem is, he’s highly invisible. This can be a good thing as his missed tackles against the Bills were atrocious, but it would be nice to see him log more than a half a tackle in 55 snaps. I’m still a fan of the leadership and veteran presence he brings to the team, along with the occasional pass rushing glimpse he displays. A very “Pace-like” week for Calvin Pace.
It is starting to seem like Coples rushed back as the weeks pass us by, which I commend him for. At the same time, it is quite obvious he is not playing at full speed. He pulled a beautiful swim move on the left tackle, but was immediately stuffed by Jaquizz Rodgers (a 5’7 running back) right after. Coples is a strong guy with enough speed and agility to make plays, but at the moment it’s not showing up. He can’t be expected to give a lot in coverage as he settles into his new role at linebacker, but he needs to find his pass rush motor soon.
Linebacker Poised For Week 5 Success: The Jets have faced (and shutdown) much more lethal rushing attacks than what the Steelers possess, setting up a big week for this crew. If the defensive line demolishes a weak Pittsburgh offensive line, Big Ben could certainly throw up a short duck. Demario Davis pick six? Calvin Pace strip sack? David Harris double digit sack day? None of these would surprise me.