Jets Early Roster Preview: Linebackers
By James Cunningham
The Jets‘ linebackers were one of the Jets’ best units in 2018. With a newly signed superstar, they look to become even more dominant in 2019.
The Jets linebackers were one of the teams’ strong suits last season. The group of Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland proved to be among the team’s best groups in 2018, putting up solid numbers all around.
Jordan Jenkins had a career year in 2018, tying for the most sacks on the team with 7. He also posted career highs in tackles for loss with 6 and QB hits with 15. Jenkins is still only 24 years old. If Gregg Williams finds a good fit for Jenkins in his defense as a pass rusher, we could see him post even better numbers in the future. The former third round pick from 2016 will only get better in the future.
Brandon Copeland was a free agent signing by the Jets during the 2018 offseason. He was signed primarily for special teams duties during the offseason, but turned into a solid starter at outside linebacker.
Copeland posted 5 sacks in 10 starts at linebacker for the Jets, which tied for the third most on the team. Despite being among the team’s best pass rushers, Copeland will likely have to compete with third round pick Jachai Polite for the starting spot at outside linebacker throughout training camp and the preseason.
Polite, one of the Jets’ third round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, was an animal at Florida. He put up 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his final season for the Gators before entering the draft. His poor pre draft process led to him dropping down to the third round, and the Jets decided to take a chance. Polite was considered a top 20 player in this draft in terms of talent, and the Jets snagged him in round three.
Avery Williamson, who was signed to the Jets during the 2018 free agency, turned out to be a tackle machine at the inside linebacker position. He posted 120 tackles, including 6 tackles for loss, in his first year as a Jet. He also had an interception and 6 passes defended.
Williamson was the replacement for Demario Davis, who left for the Saints in free agency last year. Williamson filled the role very well, and now he’s turned into a core piece of the Jets’ defense. Under Gregg Williams, Williamson will still be a tackle machine for the Jets in 2019.
Alongside Williamson at inside linebacker in 2018 was Darron Lee. Lee significantly improved off of his 2018 season, nearly earning himself a Pro Bowl bid. His pass coverage was where he made his money last season, grabbing 3 interceptions and defending 5 passes. He took one of his interceptions back for a touchdown, the first defensive touchdown the Jets have had since 2013.
Lee’s time with the Jets declined rapidly after the NFL suspended him for violating the substance abuse policy. The front office had decided they’ve had enough of Lee’s off-the-field concerns, and traded him this offseason to the Chiefs for a future sixth round pick.
The Jets replaced Lee by signing star linebacker C.J. Mosley in free agency. They gave Mosley a monster deal, signing him to a massive 5 year, $85 million contract. Mosley deserves the giant contract, considering he’s been one of the NFL’s best linebackers for years.
Mosley’s a 4-time Pro Bowler in the 5 years he’s been in the league, and has proven to be an all-around star at the linebacker position throughout his career. He has 9 career interceptions, 597 career tackles, and 43 tackles for loss. Mosley will be a gigantic addition to the Jets’ defense, as a leader and as a player.