We somehow always get by at linebacker. We havent invested a high pick or lot of FA money in a true 3-4 linebacker in quite awhile, and it is beginning to hurt us. We can start in the Middle or interior linebackers. David Harris has been a great Mike backer for us but is getting old, and his style of play limits him in todays NFL. Even his run-stopping skills (his calling card) have been on the decline recently. I think we may be seeing the last of Harris in a primary role for the jets this season. With the monsters up front, we can afford to have our ILBs be slightly smaller, quicker, and more athletic than the thumper type of Harris, and we are not taking advantage of that. He is dependable on running downs, but an absolute Liability in coverage. Demario Davis is supposed to be our more athletic, chase and tackle, speed type ILB. I like his skill set but he needs to take that next step to become reliable.
An run-stopping ILB "thumper" type can be had for much cheaper than Harris, I personally think there were many late-round picks or UDFA that could come in and supplant harris as a cheaper option and who is far less of a liability in other facets of the game. Guy like Shane Skov, Max Bullough, Keke Lattimore coulda been had as UDFA who can plug the run effectively or a veteran like pat Angerer. The Jets need to join the times at ILB and pick up guys who fit the trend of chase and tackle types and also have one or two guys who truly excel in coverage. On third down your ILBs should look more like a glorified safety than your traditional MLB type. Demario Davis is growing into this role, and I like the pick of Jeremiah George as a smaller, faster, chase and tackle type with potential in coverage. I was a bit disappointed the jets didn't snag up another ILB/OLB hybrid who excels in defense like Montana's Jordan Tripp or FSU Christian Jones. Having essentially one more defensive back out there who can take on a blocker like a small LB if need be is beginning to become the norm of a 3rd down LB. I could see George replacing Harris on 3rd downs as early as this season. Apparently Troy Davis (one of our reserve LBs) is decent in coverage, and I havent seen much from Bellore in that category. The Jets need to get more Dynamic and Athletic at the ILB position to defend the pass and outside runs more and clean up the havoc than the sons of anarchy make. I like Davis and George's potential to do so going forward, but for now Harris is still the captain of the D.
Our OLB situation is confusing as well. Yes, we are a 3-4 team, but Coples is simply not a linebacker. If I were GM i would trade him for picks, or someone like morris clairborne or a more natural 3-4 OLB who hasnt panned out yet (Melvin Ingram, Dion Jordan). I think Coples can be an elite 4-3 end or 4-3 penetrating tackle a la aaron donald, and someone could use his talents much more than he is being used in our scheme now.
Calvin Pace has been a medical marvel, and we might as well ride that train till he keels over and dies. He can set the edge against the run pretty well and isnt a huge liability in coverage, though ideally he'd be taken out in sub packages. He can also hold his own rushing the passer and sorting through the mosh pit created by the sons of anarchy.
Ideally our LOLB is someone who is stout against the run and can do some coverage, all while being capable of rushing the passer a bit when asked to do so. For now that is pace, but I like one of our new rookies (Reilly, Enempkali) to man that spot when pace is done. Right now Enempkali is raw but I like his potential as a solid LOLB who can play against the run and rush the passer. Reilly has a higher ceiling by far, and could develop into quite a nice pass-rusher from either OLB spot. Would be great to see Reilly become a full time OLB whos stout against the run and gets sacks from his non-stop motor (thinking poor mans Ryan Kerrigan as the ceiling). Its obviously unrealistic to think we get 2 OLB starters from 2 late picks in the same draft, but I can see Reilly becoming a great player under Rex. If he can round out his game a little bit he could be the steal of our draft.
Though Coples is good at a few things from the OLB spot (bull rush, setting edge), he is far too heavy and laterally slow to be counted on for 3 downs at the LB position. Ideally Rex's Defense has an elite ROLB who averages 15 sacks a year and can play on 1st and second down, but right now that players not on our roster. Orakpo is a free agent next year, and underachieving guys like Ingram or Dion Jordan could thrive in rex's defense. It really just baffles me that Rex hasnt demanded a great pass-rusher since he has been here (like an Aldon Smith). We really would thrive with a top flight pass rusher to finalize rex's D. For now on passing downs, we can make due with Coples, Antwan Barnes, and Reilly Rushing the passer, which is pretty good while Davis/George are in coverage and we move in another DB for a LB (likely Allen over the TE).
In summation, I don't think Coples at OLB is best for the long-term interest of this team. The OLB tandem of Coples and Pace should hopefully come to an end soon, making way for rookies Reilly and Enempkali to get some burn. I dont think Antwan Barnes or McIntyre are in the long-term plans for NYJ, and I also still have a glimmer of hope for Jermaine Cunningham as a pass-rusher. I believe the OLB position is about to go through an overhaul, and I'm happy about it.
Demario Davis and Jeremiah George can be the future of the ILB's as the new-breed athletic rangy chase and tacklers, along with a cheaper, younger run-stuffer to play on 1st down after Harris is out (look out for UDRFA Steele Divito and Troy Davis as depth). The LB corps for this year will have to suffice as we look to get younger, faster, more athletic while also acquiring a signature pass-rusher.