Critiquing the B/R 1000 Project: Inside Linebackers

Bloggers, media and sport fans used to heap scorn on Bleacher Report, mainly due to some questionable user-generated content that damaged the site’s reputation in its infancy. However, since their big money deal with Turner 18 months ago, they’ve added some talented and respected names as featured writers and a great deal of their content is now well worth checking out.

One of the featured writers they added to their roster was draft scouting guru and former TJB Podcast guest Matt Miller, who – along with several other film junkies – is spearheading the B/R NFL 1000 project, where they attempt to rank the NFL’s top 1,000 players. The project is now into its third year and they’ve just started releasing this year’s results. For more on how the project works go here.

In our ninth installment, we look at their rankings for inside linebackers. To look back at the previous updates go here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

In their top 60 inside linebackers list, Miller and his colleagues rank David Harris 23rd and Demario Davis 55th.

Here’s what they said about Harris:

Harris is one of those guys who will seem to always be around. He still provides the Jets just enough of everything that he’ll find his snaps, although his reputation still continues to exceed his play.

Read Bent’s thoughts after the jump.

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

On the face of it, these rankings seem about right. If anything, Harris might be ranked a little high, but then again, he had an outstanding first month and these rankings are supposed to reflect the 2013 season as a whole.

While they land in more or less the right place on the rankings list, there are still faults within the analysis that leads Miller and his colleagues to place them where they did.

First of all, they describe Davis as a “two-down linebacker”. That’s inaccurate, because Davis played over 95% of the snaps.

On Harris, they’re correct to note that he struggles to get off blocks and misses too many tackles (interestingly, he had none in the first four games and 13 in the last 12). However, their take on him as a pass rusher – “Harris doesn’t have enough burst to be considered a threat to rush the passer. It’s not something he’s often asked to do” – is off base for two reasons. First of all, while he isn’t blitzing as often as he did when Rex Ryan first arrived (2nd most ILB pass rush snaps in the NFL in both 2009 and 2010), he’s remained in the top ten for ILB pass rush snaps. Also, he has had above average per-snap productivity – 13th at his position in 2013 and 11th in 2012.

Also, the analysis harps on Davis’ limitations in coverage, when in reality that’s more of an issue for Harris and the Jets scheme around this accordingly. Harris will often be tasked with spying a quarterback or keying a runner, but most of the time, he just works underneath in zone coverage so he isn’t forced to cover too much ground. The analysis praises his ability to break on routes to the flat (having earlier highlighted his lack of burst), but as we will all recall from the Panthers game, it was possible to exploit him in such situations.

For the list as a whole, while it’s refreshing to see an ILB ranking list that doesn’t just correspond to tackle numbers, the list does seem to correspond pretty closely to PFF’s rankings list. It’s almost as if they’ve tweaked their own rankings to tie in broadly with that on the assumption that those rankings will be accurate. However, while they are indeed accurate in terms of being an efficiency rating for how well the player did their job, they don’t take into account difficulty of assignment and that’s why you end up with the guy in 5th place (Brandon Spikes) struggling to find a job before settling for a one-year, $3m deal, while the guy in 10th (Brian Cushing) had received a six-year deal for $50m+ six months earlier.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on this project over the offseason.




73 comments
Bent
Bent moderator

Falcons signed Dwight Lowery.  I didn't even realize he was available.  Surprising that not one person called for the Jets to get him considering all the fuss about upgrading our secondary.


One of the most overrated players the Jets have had in recent years IMO.

a57se
a57se

So what are the chances we start the season in Denver?


greggreen
greggreen

I wouldnt be surprised if we drafted harrises replacement this draft

lagoo
lagoo

If we can get shayne skov in the 4th I would he's a great player. He'd definitely put the pressure on these guys and I could see him stealing snaps and even a starting job

t__k
t__k

I think both LB's leave a bit to be desired.  For a guy like Davis who's strength is supposed to be in coverage, I seem to remember more than a few mix ups in coverage with him.

Disgruntled Jets Fan
Disgruntled Jets Fan

Man, I can never predict what bizarre suggestion either of the Hanknaples personalities will adamantly argue for next.  I have to at least give some credit for unpredictability.

a57se
a57se

The chances are 0% as the Jets HOST the Broncos in 2014!

a57se
a57se

@jake100  

You making up stuff again or do you have a source for this?

Bent
Bent moderator

@greggreen  Immediate replacement or heir apparent to take over next year?

Bent
Bent moderator

@t__k  Yes, good call.

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples  They had one of the best run defense in football last year, Fonzie. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@jake100 @a57se  Yep, at Metlife on MNF.  Would be very surprised at anything else.

a57se
a57se

@jake100 @a57se 

I doubt we are starting at home this year...I think it is the Giants turn.

Brendan
Brendan

@a57se Not confirmed, but that's the big rumor on Twitter. 

levi
levi

@Bent @t__k  In his defense there were mix ups all over the field at times leaving TEs and WR open. I think that could be expected with so many young guys starting. Hopefully that improves.

a57se
a57se

@jake100 @a57se 

I can think of some folks I'd like to give the  bone too........:)

a57se
a57se

@Bent @jake100

So you think Giants at home on SUnday and Jets at home on monday night? Then have us play on Denver the following Sunday....perfect!

a57se
a57se

@Bent

When does the schedule come out?

Bent
Bent moderator

@Brendan @a57se  All the big schedule rumors on twitter were wrong last year, I seem to recall.

Bent
Bent moderator

@madbacker @Bent  I don't think switching them around would work too well.  Overall, these are two of the players about whom there is the least chatter.  Would imagine this is not likely to change.

madbacker
madbacker

@Bent I believe you mentioned that you thought that the team is looking to Ride & Die with Davis and Harris as the starters. Is this still what you are hearing? Any rumor of possibly switching Davis and Harris' roles?


Gosh darn, I would love to get an early round ILB who is a better blitzer to get us back to the days of the Madbacker!!

levi
levi

@Brendan @levi  Didnt he want to move Harrison to Center at one point? I assumed that was just to get under your skin but after today I realize he might have been serious.

a57se
a57se

@Bent

What a bizarre conversation.......

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @Brendan  One of the games you cited was the Raiders game.  How does that reflect poorly on Coples?  They got a 63-yard TD right up the middle (clearly that's on the NT and the ILBs) and other than that averaged 3.5 yards per carry (25-87).

Bent
Bent moderator

They both stepped in due to injuries and proved themselves to be starter-level players, so by the time the 2011 season came around they had established themselves as the starters.


DeVito beat out Gholston in 2010 and Pouha beat out Harrison in 2012 despite being injured!

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples As far as Coples goes, he had the 7th best run stop % for all 3-4 OLB's. He had a better rating than Pace. 

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples Those are Sheldon Richardson's individual grades for those three games, which you called out as being poor performances. They were actually three of his five best performances, per the PFF grades. He had the high grade for the defense in two of those games, and was 0.2 behind the high score in the third. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @brendan  Yes, we should focus on that.  That's a fair point Fonzie.  Heck, I'll even give you a "like".

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @Brendan  


"Look at the Miami game at home last year, and against Oakland, and Baltimore."


Let's see if I can counter your negative examples with some positive examples of when the run defense was good.


Ummm, the entirety of the rest of the season including most of the three games you just named?

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples You can replace Davis without doing annnnnny of the other things you threw out there. I agree Davis needs to either put it together this year or be replaced. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @Brendan  Pouha, DeVito and Richardson were all outstanding players in statistically elite defenses.  Rex didn't just "give them the job".

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples ;afgkajdfhgadfhjg;adhgfad;fga


Richardson just won the DROY and was the 5th ranked PFF 3-4 DE. 


Omg. My brain hurts. 


Miami home game grade: +4.0

Oakland: +3.3

Baltimore: +2.6



boomer
boomer

@Hanknaples @Brendan  I'd say that was pretty good thinking on Rex's part, the whole recognizing the talent you have and playing them for maximum impact.


Why you keep trying to minimize the play of a guy who was DROY and a potential building block for years on this team is a mystery to me.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @Brendan  "You are ignoring the fact that Davis performance is bringing the run defense down."


Let's forget all about Coples, Po'uha and Richardson because they're not really relevant and focus on this comment.


I agree that Davis could improve and hopefully he's young, smart and athletic enough to do so.  If not, the team should look to upgrade.  However, if he did bring the run defense down, they were STILL the best run defense in the NFL basically all year, so it's not really a major concern...is it?

boomer
boomer

@Hanknaples @Bent  I would be more than happy to see the same thing as last year when we were one of the best teams in the league against the run.

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples There weren't constant breakdowns in contain on Coples' side last year, though. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples @Brendan  


Coples is not going to add 25 pounds and compete with Richardson for a starting role.  Even if you're adamant that's the right thing to do, it's not going to happen.

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples You just said that replacing Davis can force the opponent to only run to one side, "Coples' side." Then you spoke about moving Coples. So, you want to replace Davis, then move Coples to compete with the DROY at a position and create a hole at a position Coples is already really good at.


Why? 


Gains 25 pounds? 


Where would Richardson play if he lost said insane competition that will never, ever, ever happen? 

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples I read them. I still don't get why teams would stop running to Coples' side if you replace Davis. Or why you insist on moving Coples into a spot currently occupied by the DROY. 

a57se
a57se

@Bent

he is a chip off the old block!

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  Are you arguing with yourself?  You just said you wanted consistency and then praised the Pats for their flexibility and versatility.


The Jets had a great run defense last year and Coples was a big part of that, considering he was on the field for 80-90% of the time.  They aren't moving a productive player to a position where they have two of the best players in the league at that position already starting.