As another lost New York Jets season unfolds, it’s time to evaluate this 53-man roster. This daily ranking continues with No. 13, linebacker Neville Hewitt.
The converted safety out of the Milledgeville, Georgia and Marshall University (voted 2014 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year) may never become an elite NFL star. But he continues to get the job done whenever he’s given the opportunity.
The Thundering Herd star went undrafted and played two years for Adam Gase’s Miami Dolphins. The linebacker notably had five tackles in Gase’s last playoff appearance, a 30-12 embarrassment to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2016 AFC Wild Card game.
After Hewitt’s injury-riddled 2017 season, former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan made his move and signed the backup linebacker and special teams demon. Last year, he saw defensive snaps in all 16 games in his one and only season under Todd Bowles.
Three sacks, two interceptions, and 42 solo tackles in 2019 from an interior linebacker is the definition of a grinder with a nose for the ball.
Hewitt’s Pro Football Focus rating dropped from an opening game grade of 82.4 to 68.3 overall after Week 5 to just 40.1 for the entire season. Much of that decline had to do with playing over 95 percent of the defensive snaps in nine of the team’s 16 games.
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Some have said that Hewitt has been exposed — as a vicious pass rusher woefully average in other aspects of his game, and as yet another linebacker unable to cover tight ends long over the middle.
Hewitt remarked about his NFL path: “It’s been interesting, but it’s an opportunity that I prayed for a long time ago and it ended up happening. Now it’s here, so I’m going to make the most of it.”
Hewitt is a 2020 unrestricted free agent coming off a $3.4 million annual deal, so he won’t come cheap.
But if the New York Jets don’t have to rely on Hewitt as a three-down backer, he can be a reliable weapon in Gregg Williams’ defensive arsenal.