The Jets handed former Chiefs reserve linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis a surprisingly large 2 year, $5.3M contract, including a $1M signing bonus, $2.5M guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $2.6M. Considering those numbers, it seems like the Jets might have a relatively important role in mind for him. Could he be used in certain packages for his coverage ability? After recently concluding a series detailing the coverage stats for the rest of the Jets, let’s go back and look into Pierre-Louis’ 2017 in coverage. Is he truly a valuable cover linebacker that could help in certain situations and on third downs?
I added my charting of Pierre-Louis’ 2017 coverage numbers to the team list. You can find his name highlighted in red.
In terms of his overall body of work, on the surface it looks mostly awful. Pierre-Louis allowed absolutely terrible rates of 12.3 yards per attempt, 16.3 yards per completion, and a 136.5 QB rating; all highest on the chart among players with 10+ targets. However, he did only yield a 38% first down rate, a solid rate.
Pierre-Louis’ 2017 numbers really have to be looked at in context to be fully understood. For most of the year, he was doing a very solid job in coverage. Everything fell apart over the final two games.
Over Pierre-Louis’ first 12 games, he allowed only 47 yards and 2 first downs on 10 targets. Over his final 2 games against the Chargers and Dolphins, he broke down for a multitude of huge gains, allowing 149 yards on 4 receptions, all for first downs. Ironically, his only 2 pass breakups in coverage came in these final two games.
Pierre-Louis is absolutely a coverage linebacker first and foremost. Just look at the team stats chart at the top of this article. Pierre-Louis saw 16 targets in only 251 defensive snaps, a rate of one target per 15.7 total defensive snaps. That beats the rates of the three starting linebackers I tracked; Darron Lee came the closest with one target every 17.4 snaps. A quick look at Pierre-Louis’ athletic profile supports his reputation as a cover linebacker:
Let’s look at some of Kevin Pierre-Louis in action. You can find him wearing #57 and usually lined up at inside linebacker, both strongside and weakside.
Unfortunately we are going to start with a negative play. Pierre-Louis does a lot of work with zones in the middle of the field, and while he has some solid moments preventing targets, this is where a lot of the damage against him was done. Here he is way too late to break on this Antonio Gates crossing route right in front of him.
Let’s get into the positives. Pierre-Louis did a great job covering horizontally into the flat. Here, the Cowboys run a little misdirection with Terrence Williams, but Pierre-Louis is all over it and has the speed to prevent Williams from turning the corner.
More of what you saw above. Pierre-Louis gets a step on Wayne Gallman right at the snap and is right there for a mere 3-yard gain on 1st & 10. Again, it was plays just like this one that Pierre-Louis was stacking up for most of the season in coverage.
I noted that Pierre-Louis wasn’t racking up many productive tackles in the run game, and watching it more closely I realized that was because he simply isn’t a good run defender. Here was the most blatant example. Not only does Pierre-Louis miss the gap that Lynch runs through for a TD, but he gets pancaked. It’s more of a gap-filling problem than tackling problem for him.
Before disaster struck in the Chargers game, Pierre-Louis flashed some deep zone ability batting down a pass that would almost certainly have been a first down.
Now, you’ll see how Pierre-Louis gave up 76% of his total yardage for the year on a handful of plays in 2 games. First, Pierre-Louis fails to close on Melvin Gordon and allows him to blow by for an eventual 21-yard gain.
The play below is interesting. Watch Philip Rivers communicate something to Melvin Gordon before the snap and point out Pierre-Louis. Gordon sells outside and Pierre-Louis bites hard, as Gordon has an infinite amount of room inside. At the same time, another receiver crosses right in front of Pierre-Louis. I can’t tell if KPL simply bit on Gordon’s route or if he decided to play the crossing route in front him, but either way, Gordon eventually gains 49 yards on this play because of the mishap and Rivers knew this play was going to be there before the snap.
Finally, pitting blame on this play was a tough task, but ultimately I thought Pierre-Louis was most responsible. Pierre-Louis actually looks like the right slot corner here. When Jakeem Grant makes this catch, Pierre-Louis is the closest defender. He makes a terrible read and goes outside to his right, leaving Grant with space inside between his blockers as he eventually scores a 65-yard touchdown on this play. Pierre-Louis should’ve went inside and channeled this play towards his teammates. Let me know if you think he’s not to blame here.
Overall, Pierre-Louis seems like a worthy reserve addition to the linebacker room. He’s not a run defender, but that’s not the area where the Jets are sore. Between Darron Lee and Avery Williamson, some extra coverage help could be needed if neither starter makes strides in coverage. Pierre-Louis has special athleticism that is always welcome. Pierre-Louis was unlucky to mess up on plays that ended up yielding big yardage due to lack of help behind him, but he was mostly solid in coverage and has experience handling a high volume of pass game responsibilities. If he plays a similar role in 2018 as he did in 2017, I would definitely expect his numbers to average out towards a more respectable level, and I could even see him being the team’s most efficient coverage linebacker.
Who will be the Jets’ most efficient coverage linebacker in 2018?
This poll is closed