NY Jets: Can Erin Henderson replace Demario Davis?
The NY Jets need youth and speed at linebacker. Can they expect Erin Henderson to replace Demario Davis to give them a better pass rush that they lacked in 2015?
The New York Jets have already begun addressing their in-house free agents and they may in fact be moving on from starting inside linebacker Demario Davis. According to Dom Cosentino of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, the former 2012 third-rounder is unlikely to return with the team in 2016 and Gang Green is pushing towards re-signing veteran Erin Henderson. Now, this may not be surprising to many because cap space has to be saved for locking up Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Ryan Fitzpatrick and even Chris Ivory. However, this doesn’t seem to be related to money whatsoever.
Davis has started alongside David Harris at inside linebacker for the past three seasons and accumulated 349 tackles along with 6.5 sacks over the course of his career. The issue that general manager Mike Maccagnan as well as the rest of the staff sees in Davis is his inability to cover running backs and tight ends. Wheel routes in specific have burned New York’s linebackers often and the Week 3 defeat against the Philadelphia Eagles is a perfect example. Ryan Mathews was a nightmare for Davis from start to finish.
He also has failed to generate turnovers, the one stat the Jets’ defense has lacked as of late. In his four years, the Arkansas State graduate has a mere one interception and no forced fumbles. When you’re an inside linebacker, you aren’t expected to intercept the ball too often. Although, when you’ve made nearly 350 tackles over your career, it’s really surprising to have never jarred the ball loose.
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Henderson on the other hand is a bit different. While he’s forced plenty of turnovers in his career (eight forced fumbles, two interceptions), he isn’t the tackler that Davis is.
In his seven years, the ex-Viking has 333 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He had a good bounce back season with New York given the fact that he was the third-string guy, but he’s approaching 30 years of age and Harris isn’t young either.
To end the season, Henderson was actually receiving more snaps than Davis and the linebacker production improved as a result. Head coach Todd Bowles used the veteran in spurts against the Houston Texans in Week 11 and he forced two fumbles to give himself a bigger role in the unit the following six weeks. In the final six games, Henderson recorded 34 tackles to Davis’s 30.
With that being said, Maccagnan might have a small plan regarding what he wants to do at inside linebacker moving forward. Harris and Henderson are both old, so if the two start together in 2016, it could very well only last one season. Don’t be surprised if Harris is a cap casualty following the 2016-17 campaign while Henderson’s contract if he’s re-signed may only be for one year.
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Nonetheless, if Gang Green does choose to move on from Davis, Maccagnan must look into getting the unit much younger. Since both starters would be over 30 years of age, depth is key because durability can become an enormous issue. A duo of Harris and Henderson wouldn’t be a bad thing, but New York has to give themselves some breathing room. The Jets would be hard pressed not to target an inside linebacker in this year’s draft with their third or fourth round pick to not only add depth, but to perhaps groom Demario Davis 2.0.