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Jets Linebackers Contained Tyrod Taylor

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Tyrod Taylor is one the top running quarterbacks in the National Football League. A big part of his game is his ability use his legs to extend plays and scramble. He can do damage to teams that fail to account for his athleticism. There have been points in the past where the Jets have paid the price.

Taylor broke one big run on a zone read Kony Ealy misplayed. Aside from that, the Jets did a pretty good job bottling Taylor up.

The two inside linebackers deserve some credit for that. In the first meeting between the Jets and the Bills in 2017, you could make a strong case that Demario Davis and Darron Lee were the two worst players on the field. They both attained some measure of redemption with strong performances on Thursday.

They both played a role in bottling Taylor up, and they did it on defensive calls with varied responsibilities.

On this first play, Davis was in man to man coverage against a tight end.

Davis’ man stayed in to pass protect, however, freeing the linebacker from that responsibility.

Davis stayed mindful of the quarterback’s ability to step up, and Taylor saw he had nowhere to run with Davis filling the running lane.

Taylor gave himself up, and Davis touched him down from the sack. Davis might not have earned a sack with a great blitz, but he shut down Taylor’s hopes of scrambling for a nice gain on this play by staying mindful of the quarterback’s abilities even when it wasn’t his primary responsibility.

There were points where Taylor was a linebacker’s responsibility. The Jets spied Taylor from time to time. A spy is a player specifically assigned to prevent a quarterback from running. You can probably understand why it isn’t used frequently. A player you use to spy is a player who can’t help a defense anywhere else. Against quarterbacks like Taylor, there is sense in using a spy at certain points.

On this play, Darron Lee was the spy.

Lee stayed at home after the ball was snapped as his job was to prevent Taylor from scrambling.

Once Kony Ealy got far enough up the field to prevent Taylor from laterally moving to break out of the pocket, Lee was free to fire up the field through the open lane to go get Taylor.

On this last play, the Jets have Lee and Davis playing zone. Zone coverage usually makes it a lot easier to contain a scrambling quarterback than man coverage. This is because there are zones in the areas of the field where the quarterback wants to scramble and defenders filling those zone.

As Taylor was scrambling, Lee was able to leave his zone to meet the quarterback, forcing Taylor to move laterally.

Unfortunately for Taylor, he didn’t realize Jordan Jenkins was pursuing from behind. Since Lee prevented Taylor from moving up the field, Jenkins was able to hit the quarterback from behind and strip him. Davis was hustling from his zone to recover.

To have success in this league you have to know your opponent. No matter their primary assignment on a play, the Jets’ linebackers always kept in their minds the need to close out Tyrod Taylor’s running lanes, and that had a big impact on Thursday’s win.