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Scouting Jets linebacker CJ Mosley

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Baltimore Ravens v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the new league year underway, we’re going to break down each of the Jets’ new additions in detail. We continue today with former Ravens linebacker CJ Mosley.

The 26-year old Mosley is listed at 6’2” and 250 pounds and was the 14th overall pick out of Alabama in 2014. He’s a four-time pro bowler and four-time second-team all-pro who has racked up 579 tackles, 8.5 sacks and nine interceptions in his five seasons in the NFL.

Background

Mosley headed to Alabama as a four-star recruit and made an instant impact as a true freshman, racking up 67 tackles and 10 passes defensed in 13 games. He also scored two touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide won the BCS national championship in each of the next two years, with Mosley playing a key role. He was a first team all-American in 2012, as he led the team with 107 tackles, adding four sacks and two interceptions.

In his senior year, Mosley was an all-American again and was named as the SEC’s defensive player of the year. He set career highs in tackles (108) and tackles for loss (nine).

Mosley was a projected first-round pick in the 2014 draft and the Ravens selected him 14th overall. In five years with the Ravens he started 80 of 83 games. That includes three postseason matchups in which he registered 31 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Mosley’s impact in Baltimore was immediate, as he came second in defensive rookie of the year voting and was named to the pro bowl following a 133-tackle season.

2015 was the only season of Mosley’s career so far that didn’t see him make the pro bowl. Even so, he still racked up 117 tackles, seven passes defensed and a career high four sacks.

From 2016 to 2018 he went to three more pro bowls, registering career-highs in passes defensed (eight) and interceptions (four) in 2016 and forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (three) in 2017.

Mosley was also voted as a second-team all-pro in each of his four pro bowl seasons.

Although his statistical production was down slightly last year, Mosley was still a key contributor during the regular season and his interception against the Browns in week 17 clinched the AFC North title for the Ravens.

Having not been franchised at the end of his fifth season, Mosley opted to sign a five-year deal with the Jets. The deal is worth a maximum of $85 million, with $51 million in guarantees. This is a record contract for the inside linebacker position.

Now let’s take a look at what Mosley brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Mosley was only 234 when he attended the scouting combine, but has bulked up to 250 since being drafted.

He wasn’t 100 percent at the combine so he didn’t do a full workout but posted excellent explosiveness numbers with a 35” vertical and 118” broad jump. However, his agility numbers were poor. Mosley later ran a 4.63 40-yard dash and posted 15 bench press reps at his pro day.

Despite only being listed at 6’2”, Mosley has long arms which benefit his range as a tackler.

Usage

Mosley’s role has changed since his first two years in the league, as he’s essentially become a full-time mike linebacker.

In his first two seasons, Mosley lined up alongside Daryl Smith, who wore the headset and made the defensive calls. The two were basically interchangeable in terms of their positional assignments, so Mosley was up at the line or matched up in the slot more often than he has been in the past three seasons.

Even when he was lined up at the line, he was primarily opposite rather than outside the tackle and did not see any pass rush reps as a conventional edge rusher.

Making reads/Instincts

The first thing that stands out about Mosley’s film is how immediate his diagnosis of the play is. His first step is often half a step ahead of his main key, which enables him to get to the ball or beat his blocker to a spot:

That’s true whether he’s playing the run or in coverage:

It’s also apparent his vision during the play is excellent. He’s quick to react to misdirection and anticipates blocks well so he can avoid being taken out of a play.

Mosley’s role goes beyond diagnosing the play for himself. He has also relayed the defensive calls to his teammates over the past three seasons and plays a key role in making pre-snap adjustments.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is renowned for running a defensive audible scheme which requires him to put a ton of faith in his linebackers and safeties to make defensive adjustments. This may be the main reason the Jets were prepared to pay so much money to secure one of the best in the business at this kind of thing.

Last season, after a loss to the Dolphins, Avery Williamson conceded he didn’t communicate defensive changes well enough and admitted to having set the defensive front incorrectly a few times. While not necessarily always Williamson’s fault, defensive miscommunication was an ongoing theme for most of the season, especially in zone coverages over the middle.

The Jets will expect Mosley to be able to handle the assignments that will be thrown at him by Williams, which seem likely to be more onerous than Williamson’s assignments under Todd Bowles.

Mosley has been offside or penalized for being in the neutral zone at the snap three times in his career.

Run defense

Mosley’s ability to read and react enables him to make a lot of plays in the running game, but he also, importantly, plays with good discipline.

He has good gap integrity, moves well laterally and anticipate blocks so he doesn’t take himself out of a running lane:

Mosely’s discipline is also apparent in the way he will set an edge to force a runner back inside rather than trying to make the play himself:

Mosley gives a good effort in pursuit and, as already mentioned, does a good job of avoiding blockers in space. He will usually take good angles, although he can sometimes be caught out by faster players:

Coverage skills

Mosley’s coverage numbers at the pro level have been pretty consistent, as he’s given up a catch on about 75 percent of his targets throughout his career. He’s also given up less than 10 yards per catch and 10 touchdowns in five years. In his rookie year he gave up a catch on 83 percent of his targets and four scores, but has been better in each of those categories in each of the four years since then.

Like most middle linebackers, Mosley’s primary role in coverage often requires him to sit in the middle of the field and react to short passes. As he reads the action so well and has good closing speed, Mosley is effective in this role.

However, he’s not completely limited in coverage by any means. He is effective at taking deep drops and can stay close enough in man coverage to make plays on the ball:

Mosley had five interceptions at Alabama and nine with the Ravens, showcasing his ball skills on plays like this:

His playmaking ability is evidenced by the fact he has scored five touchdowns in his combined college and pro career and it would have been six if he didn’t fumble one on the goal line.

Nevertheless, he’s perhaps not ideally equipped to handle a coverage role against elite athletes coming across the middle:

He has had six coverage penalties in his career, albeit only one in the past two seasons. Three of the six were for pass interference.

Tackling

Mosley is a productive and secure tackler who has cut down on his number of missed tackles each year. He had just seven missed tackles last season having missed double that amount in his rookie year:

Mosley displays good technique, whether getting himself in position to make the tackle and stop the runner in their tracks or chasing them down and using his long arms to drag them down:

He’s also shown a knack for forcing fumbles, with six in his career. He’s adept at stripping the ball in the tackle but can also jar the ball loose with some big, but not reckless, hitting:

Pass rush

Mosley has been productive at creating pressure as a blitzer throughout his career, although seven of his 8.5 career sacks came in his first two seasons. These all came either on blitzes up the middle or cleaning up.

Interestingly, his role changed somewhat in 2018, as he blitzed 19 percent of the time, as opposed to only nine percent of the time in the first four years of his career. Despite this, he did not produce any more than his usual output in terms of generating pressure.

A possible reason for this was that the Ravens employed him more than usual on “hug rushes”. These are designed to occupy the running back rather than to try and get to the quarterback. By forcing him to block, you prevent him from running a route or helping one of the other offensive linemen.

You may recall Williamson had this assignment against Tarik Cohen in Chicago and blew it, leading to a long touchdown. Mosley does a better job of reacting to the back leaking out here:

The fact he was doing this more often and dropping into coverage less may also have been one explanation for why Mosely’s tackle count dropped from 132 to 105 in 2018.

When rushing the passer, Mosely has a knack for dropping off to bat down passes. In fact, he’s also intercepted a couple of passes by doing this.

Special teams

Mosley hasn’t played special teams in the past couple of seasons. In the past he’s played some punt coverage and registered four tackles, all in his rookie year. He has also lined up on the field goal defense.

Scheme familiarity

It’s a moot point as to whether the Jets identify themselves as a 3-4 or 4-3 team next year, because they’re certain to play a bit of both, along with plenty of sub-package work. Mosley will have received adequate preparation for any package at Alabama and Baltimore anyway.

His role within the defense is likely to be as the mike linebacker, although he has played some will linebacker in the early part of his college career and his first few years in the NFL.

The real intrigue in the defensive system will instead be how the Jets intend to use Williamson and Darron Lee in conjunction with Mosley - if indeed both remain on the roster. A rotation is possible, but getting all three on the field at once might require some creative thinking and could force some square pegs into round holes.

As noted, Williams’ scheme puts added onus on the middle linebacker to make everything run smoothly, but the Jets must be confident in Mosley’s ability to handle this otherwise they wouldn’t have paid him so much money.

Intangibles

Aside from his on-field intelligence, Mosley has been lauded for his leadership, work ethic and film study habits and hasn’t had any off-field issues.

His disciplined play last year extended to the fact that he didn’t have a single penalty, although he did have 17 in his first four years, including four unnecessary roughness penalties and two other 15-yarders.

Injuries

Mosley has been durable so far throughout his career, which is no doubt another factor in his big money deal. He’s missed just three games; two because of a hamstring injury in 2016 and one because of a bone bruise to his knee last season.

In the past, Mosley had a dislocated elbow in 2011 and needed hip surgery to repair a torn labrum prior to the 2014 scouting combine.

Conclusions

Mosley’s contract is a market-altering deal, which puts a ton of pressure on him to play at an elite level.

The Jets have paid him as if they believe he can be the best inside linebacker in the league or close to it - and there aren’t too many ahead of him. However, even if they’ve overpaid him that’s something the Jets put themselves in a position to do by saving up plenty of cap space.

Mosley’s attitude and intelligence are going to make him integral to installing Williams’ new system, just as Bart Scott was for Rex Ryan. Scott was another player who some felt the Jets had to overpay when they signed him in 2009, so the Jets will be hoping this former Ravens linebacker has the same kind of immediate impact as his predecessor.