Throughout January and February, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at former Patriots linebacker Harvey Langi.
The 26-year old Langi is listed at 6’2” and 251 pounds and was undrafted out of BYU in 2017. New England signed him as an undrafted free agent and he made their roster as a rookie. However, he only played in one game and then was released in final cuts last season. The Jets signed him to their practice squad in October and to a futures deal after the season.
Langi was a running back in high school and was initially recruited to Utah to play that position. He rushed 13 times for 70 yards off the bench in his freshman year but then went on a two-year mission.
When he returned to Utah in 2013, he had bulked up to 250 and they decided to convert him to defensive end, but he opted to transfer to BYU and began playing for them in 2014.
In his first year, Langi didn’t play much off the bench, as he saw action both on the edge and as an off-ball linebacker. However, in 2015, he racked up career highs in tackles (66), tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (4.5). He also had the only two interceptions of his college career.
As a senior, Langi played more on the edge and his production fell as a result even though he played more games. He did, however, register a career-best in passes defensed and the first forced fumble of his college career.
Langi also played some running back in his last two seasons, racking up 102 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
Having attended the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, Langi was projected by some sources as a possible mid-round pick but ultimately was not selected in the 2017 draft. However, he apparently received offers from 12 teams to sign as an undrafted free agent but ultimately opted to sign for New England, who gave him the biggest contract of any undrafted free agent that year.
Langi started the first two preseason games and was productive, earning his spot on the regular season roster. However, he was only active in one of the first five games and then suffered a season-ending back injury in a car accident.
In 2018, Langi was injured in preseason, leading to him being released in final cuts by New England. The Jets signed him to their practice squad in October, but he was placed on the practice squad injured list less than three weeks later. They opted to sign him to a futures deal after the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Langi brings to the table, divided into categories.
Langi has good size for an off-ball linebacker but may be slightly undersized to play on the edge.
At the combine he wasn’t able to participate in all of the events, but he ran a solid 4.66 in the 40 at his pro day. His three cone and bench press were both above average but his short shuttle, vertical and broad jump were underwhelming.
Langi actually worked with the defensive end group at the combine, so his shuttle numbers were among the best at his position, but they were a lot less impressive when compared with other linebackers.
Scouting reports when Langi was due to be drafted suggested that he’d been miscast by being put out on the edge and that his best pro potential would be in an off-the-ball role. However, New England said they were looking at him in multiple positions and ended up mostly using him as an edge defender, albeit mostly standing up.
As noted, Langi also has some previous experience as a running back.
Langi works hard in the running game, moves well laterally and pursues across the field. At times, he looks pretty good setting the edge on stretch plays and outside runs:
However, he was also overpowered at the point of attack quite a lot. This tended to be because he plays with a narrow base moreso than pad level issues. Also, while he flashes the ability to work off a block, he often gave ground when doing so. Langi also lacked awareness and anticipation when players would block down on him from the side and ended up on the floor quite a lot, as on this play:
A further concern when Langi was entering the league was that he would need to play with more gap discipline.
Langi was relatively productive in college, whether as a blitzing off-ball linebacker or coming off the edge, although he only had two sacks in his senior year in which he was mostly playing on the edge.
In preseason action, Langi did create some pressure, but this tended to be more from effort rather than beating his man cleanly with good technique. A lot of the time, his first move would be easily repelled and he didn’t display a natural array of counter moves.
Here was about the best rep he had during preseason, showing some ability to go from speed-to-power and then back again:
The rest of the pressure he generated tended to be late in the play, although he did catch Breno Giacomini napping once on a hesitation move.
Langi’s experience as an off-ball linebacker serve him well when he’s required to drop into coverage from the edge, although he hasn’t been required to do that very often with New England. Here’s one play where he did, making the correct pick-up in zone coverage:
In college, Langi intercepted two passes and batted two down at the line. He also intercepted a deflected pass on a late two-point conversion in the 2017 Senior Bowl to clinch the win for his team.
Special teams could be a big part of what New England (and now the Jets) saw in Langi. He did a good job in kick coverage in preseason and was also in on a couple of special teams tackles in his only NFL regular season game:
Langi has seen time on all of the four main special teams units, also seeing action as a blocker on returns. In college, he also fielded four kickoffs, returning them for 73 yards.
Langi has been a productive tackler who will usually get his man down with good form. However, he has had some issues with missing tackles over the years, including 12 missed tackles in 2015, his only full season as an off-ball linebacker. He also missed a few tackles with the Patriots:
Langi only had one forced fumble in his career but has good range in pursuit out to the sideline.
Langi is a hard-working player although it seems like he will often get caught up on a block and struggle to find a way to leverage his way off it.
He pursues downhill aggressively though, and constantly plays to the whistle, often diving on piles:
In preseason action, Langi played almost 50 snaps in one game, so he has the conditioning to handle a heavy workload.
With the Jets switching to a multiple defense that is expected to be built around a 4-3 base, Langi’s best position in the base defense might be as a strong side linebacker. That would make use of his experience on the edge and ability to drop if required. He could also come off the edge in sub-packages though.
Langi is said to have had some maturity issues in his past but has been lauded for his hard work and dedication since coming back from his mission in college. He has also done plenty of charitable work in the community.
On the field, he is sometimes slow to read and react and can be fooled by misdirection at times. Here was a play where he left a receiver open in the flat:
Langi hasn’t had major issues with penalties in his career, although he had five in his senior season at BYU. With New England, he was called for a face mask penalty on a special teams play and illegal use of the hands on a preseason pass rush attempt.
Injuries are the main thing that have stunted Langi’s growth as a player so far in his pro career. He had a hamstring issue at the combine, a concussion issue at the start of his rookie season and then the back injury after his car accident a few weeks after that. He then missed every preseason game in his second season due to internal lacerations and was taken off the Jets’ practice squad in October with an unspecified injury.
New England was obviously high on Langi considering the contractual lengths they went to in order to secure his services ahead of 11 other teams. However, at the same time, they didn’t have enough patience to stick with him when he struggled to stay on the field in his two camps with them.
The acquisition of Langi is somewhat reminiscent of Brandon Copeland, who also seemed to have played his best football as an off-ball linebacker and had been underwhelming since moving to an edge defender role. However, Copeland was one of the surprises of the season as he ended up starting several games and registered five sacks.
The idea of an edge defender with the ability to drop and cover obviously appeals to the Jets, as does the fact he’s versatile enough to play a number of roles in an emergency as well as being a potential top special teams contributor.
However, if this was something that appealed to the previous regime, that doesn’t mean that Langi has the inside track on a role in Gregg Williams’ defense. Still, if he’s made any kind of impression on Brant Boyer, then perhaps he has a good shot of making the team for his special teams abilities alone.