Quincy Williams was named as a first-team All Pro at the end of the 2023 season, 12 months after his fellow linebacker CJ Mosley was named as a second-team All Pro. Clearly this is one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL right now, but how does it compare with another great linebacker duo from recent Jets history?
The New York Jets signed Bart Scott in 2009 to pair him with David Harris, who would be in his third season with the Jets. The pair played together for four seasons, so now seems like a good time to compare the two pairings with Mosley and Williams about to enter their fourth season starting alongside one another.
Clearly both of these duos filled out the stat sheet on a consistent basis, but there are some interesting differences in how they did this.
Let’s look at tackles first. Mosley and Williams combined to average 17 tackles per game. Harris and Scott, however, only averaged just under 12. This includes 55 tackles for loss for Harris and Scott in their four seasons together compared to 58 tackles for loss in three years for Williams and Mosley.
There are two likely reasons for this. The first is that the defensive lines were set up differently, with Rex Ryan’s front doing plenty of two-gapping and bottling up runs so the defensive line could rack up a greater share of the tackles, while Robert Saleh’s linebackers are required to fill gaps created by penetrating linemen. The other is that Harris and Scott blitzed significantly more often than Williams and Mosley do, so would be getting fewer opportunities to record tackles in coverage.
Let’s look at pass rushing numbers next, where this is further reflected. Mosley and Williams have combined for 10.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits in three seasons. In comparison, Harris and Scott racked up a combined 23.5 sacks and 67 quarterback hits in four seasons.
You’d expect better coverage numbers from Mosley and Williams, and this does hold up. They have 32 passes defensed in three years between them, while Scott and Harris combined for just 25 in their four years together. Scott and Harris intercepted eight passes between them, though, which beats Williams and Mosley’s three.
Scott is an interesting study in this regard, because his addition to a 2008 team which should have made the postseason but collapsed down the stretch was essential. It helped fixed one of their biggest weaknesses, which was coverage from the linebackers.
At the end of his career, media members started suggesting Scott was “a liability in coverage”, but the numbers fail to bear this out, as he didn’t give up a single catch more than 10 yards down the field in his final season.
One final test of these players and their playmaking ability is forced fumbles. Harris and Scott combined for four in four seasons between them, while Williams and Mosley have combined for nine in three seasons.
As noted, Williams was a first-team All Pro in 2023 and Mosley was a second-team All Pro in 2022. Mosley also went to the 2022 Pro Bowl and was named as a third alternate for 2023.
Harris actually never went to the Pro Bowl in his entire career, although he was a second-team All Pro in his first season alongside Scott, and Rex Ryan felt he was the best linebacker in the NFL. Scott was a Pro Bowl player and second-team All Pro once in Baltimore, but he never received that kind of individual recognition as a Jet.
Advanced metrics back up the assertion that Mosley and Williams were one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL this year, as Mosley was ranked 5th and Williams 8th among all linebackers according to grades from analysis site Pro Football Focus.
However, Williams graded out poorly in 2022 and 2021 and Mosley also graded out poorly in 2021 although his grade for 2022 was good. Of course, it’s possible these grading systems give too much blame to the linebackers on bad defenses and too much credit on good defenses.
Interestingly, Harris’s grades from the same site were pretty consistent throughout the four years where he was lined up alongside Scott, albeit being good rather than great.
Scott was a bit more boom and bust, but he was ranked sixth in his best season, which was 2010. Even his lower-graded seasons were graded comfortably better than Williams’ first two years and Mosley’s 2021 season.
Here’s the main difference between the Mosley/Williams duo and that of Harris/Scott. The current duo have seen the Jets fail to make the postseason in three consecutive seasons with just 18 wins in 51 games. Harris and Scott’s teams went 34-30 in their four years together, with two post-season performances and a 4-2 playoff record.
These are four great linebackers and two duos where each player complements the other perfectly. Excitingly, the current duo seems to be getting better and better as they are about to head into their fourth season together.
It’s too difficult to definitively say which pairing is the best, but - as noted - the current duo probably need to be part of a team with a winning record and some playoff success before they can claim to have surpassed Harris and Scott.
As for where they stand in Jets history, it’s a bit difficult to compare across eras because it was more common to see three or four linebackers on the field in the past, but all four players arguably compare favorably to the best linebackers in franchise history.
Linebackers like Larry Grantham, Mo Lewis and Kyle Clifton are regarded as among the best the Jets have ever had. Harris is in the conversation too, although Scott probably wasn’t with the team for long enough. Mosley and Williams will need a few more good years together to insert themselves into the discussion, but hopefully they are headed in the right direction.