Grading current inside linebacker situation
As the New York Jets continue training camp, their current inside linebacker situation is look solid heading into the regular season.
The New York Jets have themselves a strong group at inside linebacker as they do every season. This year will be much more exciting for the unit, however. Gang Green had some departures and they made up for them with some new faces. Let’s take a look at the current state of the position.
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David Harris is back for his 10th season in green and white as the team’s thumper in the middle. The veteran is a tackling machine and a productive blitzer, although he’s inept in pass coverage. Harris will obviously be a pivotal part of the defense as he always is, but it’s important for head coach Todd Bowles to mix things up on third and even some second downs. He simply cannot keep up with tight ends and running backs anymore.
First round rookie Darron Lee is what makes the Jets’ inside linebacker situation so intriguing. The former Buckeye might be the most athletic player on the defense due to how fast and versatile he is. He’s quick enough to drop back in coverage and he’s strong enough to play up in the box. With that being said, the one question mark will be his transition into the NFL. Urban Meyer runs a great program at Ohio State and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can make the jump.
Erin Henderson and Bruce Carter won’t be receiving a high number of snaps, however, their value is still enormous. Both are seasoned players who have gas left in the tank and enough experience to teach a guy like Lee. You could make the case that the Jets are in a better spot than a majority of the league at middle linebacker because of these two.
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Henderson did wonders in 2015 when Davis failed to produce, especially in the final few weeks of the season.
The 30-year-old racked up 45 tackles and two forced fumbles in his limited playing time.
Carter on the other hand posted similar stats in 14 games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He tallied 47 tackles and two sacks as a rotational guy in Lovie Smith’s defense.
The last two inside linebackers on the roster are Taiwan Jones and Julian Howsare. Jones was brought in last offseason as an undrafted free agent and he has a great chance to crack the final 53-man roster in September. The Michigan State product has been compared to Harris numerous times and the preseason could be his opportunity to make that comparison more realistic.
Howsare is a unique player in the sense that he can play fullback too. He does a solid job on special teams and he blocks well enough to earn reps on the offensive side of the football. You can expect him to push Tommy Bohanon for the starting fullback spot, although he’s ultimately a long shot to make the roster. It’s tough to keep five inside linebackers and Bohanon seems to have the slight edge for the time being.
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Overall, New York cannot be upset with what they have at middle linebacker. You have two reliable starters along with experienced depth to give the unit the insurance it certainly needs. The Jets without a doubt have plenty to look forward to at the position this upcoming season.