Three years ago, the Jets lost a quality veteran nose tackle, Sione Pouha. There was uncertainty at the position, and a second year player from a small school emerged not just as a starter but as one of the best run stuffers at his position in the league.
For this reason, comparisons to Damon Harrison come naturally to people when they discuss Deon Simon. Now Harrison is gone, and Simon is trying to emerge.
These comparisons are probably unfair to Simon. How can you ask a kid to become as good as Harrison? If Simon develops into a quality rotational player, that would be a win for the Jets and worth the seventh round pick the team invested in him.
Simon is not likely to win a starting job. The Jets invested in a new nose tackle in the offseason, Steve McLendon. Back in 2013, the Jets only had Kenrick Ellis and veteran Antonio Garay, who had signed a cheap deal and was subsequently cut when Harrison emerged in the preseason. McLendon's contract makes it unlikely he will be Garayed this season.
Simon did seem to help his cause for a roster spot on Friday night against Washington, though. He flashed ability on a number of plays.
Here is a fourth and short play in the first half. Simon (number 93) does exactly what you want a nose tackle to do. He doesn't allow the offensive line to get any push, and he gets off his block to make the stuff when only one Washington lineman engages him.
This was another play where Simon held the point of attack and shed a blocker to make a stuff. This is exactly what you want out of your nose tackle.
Here Simon forces a safety by drawing an illegal hands to the face penalty in the end zone. He uses a power move to gain leverage, collapse, the pocket, and force a penalty and two points as a result.
As much as I like the big man who plays with power, I love the thinking big man who plays with power. This play was probably my favorite from Simon all night. It's about brain power. Simon detects a screen before the ball was even thrown, identifies where it is going, and destroys the play.
Obviously a few big plays in preseason does not a quality player make, but this was a nice step forward for Simon. When it comes to project players, the one thing I want to see is consistent progress. You don't need to be a star by year two. You do need to be better than the player the Jets had in year one. We are starting to see Simon show that he is and perhaps worthy of a backup spot on the defensive line.