As we approach training camp, it is time to start thinking about where the new additions to the Jets fit in. First round pick Darron Lee will likely be eased into the lineup. I am not sure exactly how he will be used, but one specific thing stuck out to me when the Jets picked him out of Ohio State, his speed. I was intrigued by the fit specifically because of the way Todd Bowles utilizes his inside linebackers in the Jets defense.
The quickest path between two points is a straight line. When defenses attack a passer, they often bring the rush from the outside. Bowles likes blitzing his inside linebackers from the A and B gaps, closer to the quarterback.
What are the A and B gaps? The space between two lineman is called a gap. A gaps are the space between the center and the guards. B gaps are the space between the guards and the tackles. If we go outside the tackles, we get to the C gaps. For a visual representation, view the hi-tech GGN graphic below.
In the black letters on top are the positions. In the red letters below are the gaps.
Bowles likes to try and create chaos up the middle by having his linebackers attack.
Here is an example from the Jets' Week 4 victory over the Dolphins in London. David Harris registers a sack as a blitzer on this play. What happens? Harris is given a free path to the quarterback because of the unpredictability of the Jets' defense.
The Dolphins have five blockers on the play. The Jets have five pass rushers. It should be a simple one on one. It isn't, though. The Dolphins have incorrectly set up their blocking as though DeMario Davis is going to be rushing off the edge and Harris will be dropping into coverage. The red lines are the offensive line assignments. Davis is circled in yellow. Harris is circled in orange.
This is the way the Dolphins should have blocked the play.
They are in the wrong protection, though, because they have misidentified the front. The way the Jets attack from all angles has confused them. How do you get the protection right? That's what film study is for. In this case, $77 million can't buy the Dolphins a quarterback who can overcome the unpredictability and aggressiveness of Bowles' defense, and Harris comes away with the sack.
Here is an instance against the Bills where the Jets send both Davis and Harris on a blitz.
In this instance, the Bills seem to be in a slide protection. That is to say, the offensive linemen are responsible for an area of the field rather than one specific man. They are all responsible for the gap to their right as noted by the orange lines. Davis and Harris cross each other, though, which throws things off.
Davis starts off on the left side of the picture, which puts him in left guard Richie Incognito's zone. Incognito initially picks him up, but Davis carries the play to the right of the picture. Incongito gets carried right. In doing so, he has to pass off Davis to a back who isn't prepared because he saw Incognito engaged. Because Incognito is carried right, he also leaves a breach in his gap for Harris to run through, as shown by the orange circle.
In the end, Davis gets to Tyrod Taylor and forces a throw that is just a little rushed and thrown off target just enough to miss an open Sammy Watkins. Bully for Davis.
These blitzes can also disrupt the run game. Here is a play where the Bills pull Incognito to try and block Harris.
Incognito would be in a good position to throw a block, but because Harris blitzes (this one is through the C gap), he gets a head start, explodes through the breach in the blocking, and beats Incognito to the point of attack. Bully for Harris.
A guy like Lee could potentially take this concept to another level. It's about the speed. When there are gaps in the middle of the defense to attack, speed can make a big difference. The faster the guy is, the less time the offense has to fortify the breached area. With a guy who has speed in the 4.4 range, that can get really dicey. Remember, this defense's objective is to create the type of confusion to create these breaches and have linebackers attack.
Lee is still a developing player new to his position, but one thing that has stuck out about his game to me is his nose for the ball and ability to avoid traffic when he gets going downhill. Sometimes he gets caught out of place.going side to side, but I really like what I have seen from him when he sees an opening North.
Hat tip to Draft Breakdown.
Again, we can't be sure exactly what Lee's role will be right off the bat, but I do think Lee's skillset creates exciting possibilities in this defense in this particular role.