Can NY Jets replicate the 2019 49ers linebacking corps?
For the most part, the 2019 49ers ran a 4-2-5. In other words, their base scheme included four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs.
Their two linebackers that year were Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, the former of whom has distinguished himself as one of the elite linebackers in the league today.
Warner's 2020 Pro Football Focus grade was an elite 88.6. Meanwhile, none of the three Jets starting linebackers right now have a PFF grade over 50, a grade that any rostered NFL player should be able to reach.
The odds of having such an elite linebacker like Fred Warner next year look slim. But then again, they looked slim for the 49ers following the 2018 season too.
What do I mean?
Well, prior to the 2019 season, Fred Warner was merely a recent third-round pick with a PFF grade of just 64.1. He didn’t have many pass deflections, tackles for loss, QB Hits, forced fumbles, or really much of any counting stat outside of 124 tackles.
Per Pro Football Reference, he allowed 475 yards in coverage in 2018, over 200 more than he allowed in 2020. He wasn’t an elite linebacker, or anywhere close to it, heading into the 2019 season. Likewise, the Jets don’t have anywhere close to an elite linebacker currently.
For that matter, Warner wasn’t the elite player he is currently in that 2019 season either. He was given a 66.9 PFF grade in 2019, and allowed over 450 yards in coverage again.
He was a playmaker for the 49ers, logging a couple sacks and forced fumbles, plus an interception and a touchdown. Outside of that, though, he was still nowhere near the dominant coverage linebacker he was in 2020.
Who is to say the Jets can’t get similar production, especially when it came so out of the blue? Perhaps team MVP and once-superstar C.J. Mosley can step up and fill the Warner role after struggling mightily in coverage this season.
The other starting linebacker for the 49ers that season was sixth-round rookie Dre Greenlaw, who received a 64 Pro Football Focus grade that season.
He allowed a completion percentage of 85.7, 7.1 percentage points higher (worse) than Quincy Williams allowed this year. I could easily see Williams filling this role next season, especially after his 110-tackles, three-forced fumbles campaign this season.
Even if Williams is not up for the task, Greenlaw was a mere sixth rounder — to say that the Jets have no way of getting their hands on a Greenlaw-talent player would be inaccurate.