As the New York Jets continue to prepare for the regular season, linebacker Darron Lee will be an important part of their defense as their pass rush will need to be faster this time around.
Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, the New York Jets were widely expected to take a pass rusher or offensive lineman. Even the days leading up to the draft, many venues had quarterback Paxton Lynch mocked to the Jets by the vast majority of experts.
Although anyone who knows general manager Mike Maccagnan knew that he was going to take the best player available when on the clock. When the Jets were indeed on the clock, sitting there was controversial pass rusher Noah Spence, and high risers such as offensive tackle Jason Spriggs and cornerback William Jackson; all filling areas of need. Once again, Maccagnan picked a player no one saw coming; linebacker Darron Lee of Ohio State.
Lee, who played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker and safety in high school, was put at weak-side linebacker for the Buckeyes. He only played two years in college, but he flashed serious play-making ability and sideline to sideline speed. Lee amassed 146 tackles including 27 for a loss, 11 sacks, 3 interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
In the play above, Lee shows off his incredible awareness. As Northern Illinois sets up a screen, Lee reads it immediately and knifes his way through traffic. He finds the ball, makes the interception and then shows his incredible speed to take it to the house. Not many linebackers can make that play in the NFL, let alone college.
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While playing for Ohio State, Lee showed that he can excel in both man and zone coverage at times.
The coaching staff of the Jets will need to improve his technique to continue to excel in coverage.
In the play below, Lee is playing zone coverage in the slot, and his job is to watch the quarterback’s eye; almost like a spy.
The quarterback, under pressure, tries to force one and Lee keeps his eye on the quarterback. Lee picks it off, sitting underneath the intended receiver, in the perfect spot for the interception:
Another area of Lee’s game is ability as a pass rusher. His speed allows him to bend the edge but his ability to blitz the A gap will certainly be utilized by head coach Todd Bowles. It seems like every team in the NFL has a double A gap blitz look, either bringing both linebackers or dropping one or both. This package is very popular and can lead to protection issues. This can benefit the Jets’ inexperienced edge players as they may get matched up one-on-one on a tight end or running back, or just completely unblocked.
Lee has been compared toDeone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals because of his speed and versatility. Bucannon was the definition of the new position called “dime-backer”. He plays in the box as a linebacker, as he can play the run but also cover tight ends, running backs or even slot receivers man-to-man. This is what the Jets hope Lee can provide this upcoming season. In today’s NFL, having a dimebacker like Bucannon or Lee is essential to boasting a top ranked defense.
Lee will easily be playing 60% of the time to start the season, possibly reaching 90% by season’s end. Lee can help the Jets in run defense, setting the edge, pass rushing inside and outside along with matching up with tight ends and slot receivers in man and zone coverage. Lee can do it all and will be crucial to the success of the Jets’ defense in 2016.