Can Darron Lee, a first-round pick last year, make the necessary strides to be the future defensive leader for the New York Jets? He’s going to surprise many in 2017.
Many critics have been harsh about Darron Lee’s rookie season with the New York Jets. Some think that he did not live up to the potential of a 1st Round pick. Perhaps the criticism is a bit unfair since he was second in tackles with 73 in 13 games. This is an average of 5.5 tackles per game. If Lee had played a full 16 he would have had 90 plus putting him close to team leader David Harris (95 tackles).
Lee’s downside was pass coverage. The Jets look for him to improve in this area. When in college, the Buckeyes converted Lee from defensive back to linebacker. So when the Jets selected him the thought process was to have a versatile hybrid defender. Similar to how Todd Bowles utilized Deone Bucannon when he controlled Arizona’s defense. Lee’s scouting hype was that he has 4.47 forty speed and explosive agility with the athleticism of a defensive back.
What many may not know is that Lee played quarterback and cornerback in high school, so he has the understanding of running an offense and playing in secondary coverage schemes. At Ohio State, he played weak-side outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. The Jets moved him into a middle-backer role for Bowles attacking 3-4 defense. So it is understandable that he would need some time to transition. As the game begins to slow down for him and he becomes more comfortable in being the defensive quarterback, Lee should improve in all areas.
Darron Lee was your top-tackling rookie linebacker a season ago pic.twitter.com/ISYVlKOMnS
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 12, 2017
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Pro Football Focus gave Lee a tough rating several months ago but just recently he was noted to have the best tackle efficiency of all rookies in 2016.
This is very promising as Lee and recently acquired via trade, Demario Davis will take on the duties once had by Harris.
Davis is a poor man’s version of Harris with his run stopping traits. The pairing with Lee’s speedy coverage ability should bode well for the defense and make a new dynamic duo.
Overall, the undersized rookie (6’1 232 lbs.) showed speed and the ability to play sideline to sideline. If Lee can improve his coverage against tight ends and running backs, he will have the potential to become an elite defender for years to come, including the next big defensive leader for the Jets.