Opinion: OLB depth not an issue if you look in the right place

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

What’s the biggest hole on the Jets roster? Cian Fahey of Football Outsiders contends that it is the outside linebacker position. Fahey cites the team’s top player at the position is a 33 year old Calvin Pace who had 10 sacks for the first time in his career in 2013.

calvin-paceBehind Pace of course is Antwan Barnes, who is recovering from an ACL that was torn during the 2013 season.  Jermaine Cunningham is taking sub-package reps in Barnes’ place, but Cunningham is a reclamation project brought in from the Patriots.  Garrett McIntyre has provided the team some depth and has had moments, but the consistency has been an issue.  Beyond Tim Fugger, the Jets also drafted both IK Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly to fill in the team’s depth.

But in the end it all comes back to Pace for Fahey.

“Pace took the quarterback down 11 times last year—he had two half-sacks—and he didn’t beat a block on seven of those plays,” Fahey writes on Football Outsiders. “On those plays, he was either given a free route to the quarterback or the quarterback left the pocket and Pace brought him down behind the line of scrimmage.”

Calvin Pace has never been a speed rusher to beat a blocker around the edge for a quick sack.  His value since coming to the Jets has been in setting the edge and turning the run back inside or making a sure tackle on a ball carrier when required — an important but thankless task.  Regardless, his game has begun to erode in the past few seasons and when Barnes went down last season the Jets found a way to make use of him.

It’s is more than fair to assume he won’t put up the same sack total again in 2014, but he should be able to contribute all the same.  The fact that Pace was unblocked in seven of his 11 takedowns indicates to me the stellar job that the defensive front is doing to set him up for such success.  Pace has always been a player who has relied on his motor to reach the quarterback.  Pace isn’t the sort of player who can hurry the quarterback, but with Mohammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples he doesn’t necessarily need to be.

coplesWhich brings us to the most glaring issue in the piece.  We can debate whether or not Quinton Coples is or is not a true linebacker, but he is listed as such at both the Jets website and at Ourlads.  The rush linebacker role in Rex Ryan’s scheme is something that can often appear like an end, but has the flexibility to start from a two or three point stance.  Coples is better or more comfortable out of a three-point stance and thus elects to set himself up accordingly.

The simple fact is that he is an edge-rusher and is becoming a better edge-setter for the Jets after two years and could bring more athletic upside to Calvin Pace’s spot at some point when Pace starts to move out of the lineup.

To be fair though, we get why Fahey would overlook Coples.  Last year didn’t start well for Coples . After fracturing his ankle in the preseason, Coples sat out the first two games of the season and appeared to have come back early, plainly struggling through Week 8.  Through the first nine weeks (the time of the team’s bye), Coples had just one sack and seven QB hurries.

The healthier Coples became, the better his game was.  After the bye in the last seven games of the season, Coples totaled five sacks and 16 hurries.  Coples also got better against the run in the bargain, almost assuring us that he will see a lot of time for the Jets as a pass-rushing, run-stopping three-down outside linebacker in 2014.




28 comments
jdb4
jdb4

The problem is so many in the media still want to treat players like they belong in Madden 95.  Football has evolved and players on defense don't always play a specific position anymore.


Hell defensive lineman can be incredibly nuanced.  One player would be an absolutely fantastic 5 technique and the same player could be an average 3 technique.  Well the coaches are going to play him primarily at the 5. What's the difference, depending on the formation, he could look like a DT and in the other look like a DE.

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

Trevor Reilly in Pace's spot will get us alot of sacks believe me, I would experiment with Quincy Enunwa if your'e not going to play at receiver, the dude looks solid and has the size of a linebacker. He has 4.45 speed if you put him on the outside he can drop back in coverage or he can blitz the QB.

williamg1
williamg1

I'm not worried about our OLBers. I'm worried about our Guards

Monty
Monty

Every reporter has to give his opinion if he's "ok" with Eric Decker going to an award show with his wife.I'm glad theyre "ok" with it haha what a life..

http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york-jets/post/_/id/39635/pff-jets-rank-among-bottom-third-in-talent

Pff doing their usual bang up job. There something so incestuous about how people link and feed of off other negativity and bull. ...oh did I just link to it..? I digress

PFF created  a rating system for things based on their arbitrary opinion of film study but because its a number, and people are lazy, everyone treats their rankings as law.

So most "reporters" will link to it and write articles about it because they are too lazy to have thier own opinions and do their own study. 

Thats why the BGA rocks. Eyes,opinion and reporting. 

Monty
Monty

I agree, couples is going to be fine out there. He showed some good things last year, hes still young and developing.  

Coples was used a true linebacker last year. As much as Terell Suggs is used as one in the Ravens defense. The "reporter" mus have overlooked Coples because hes a little dumber than most  of the other bloggers.  it's a slow jets news week I guess. 

 The outside linebacker position is not stocked right now but WR CB , S, QB OL, and veteran fast RB were much bigger priorities this offseason. 

In pass rushing downs you are usually in nickel or dime anyway so you dont need a lot of pass rushers. If couples can get better or Barnes can be good and healthy we will be fine. 

Ari Jean
Ari Jean

Yeah, all those comments are valid one's to a degree, but there will be another hole and this one at quarterback if geno smith starts.

Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

Drafting Richardson and then moving Coples (who had been superb on DL) to OLB has not worked.


Coples is a powerful man - ideal for contests with OL, but does he have the agility to either get to the QB - once the QB leave the pocket?  I haven't seen it.


Neither does Coples offer any support dropping back in coverage...an area sorely absent with all our linebackers.


I don't see Coples dislodging any of the starting DL.  And, I do not see him becoming a credible OLB.


I do not buy that in Rex's system Coples is both an OLB and a DL.  In fact he is neither now.


We need an OLB with an OLB's skill set.  In fact we need 2 of them.  Pace was over-the-hill 2 years ago.  Thinking he has discovered the Fountain of Youth is foolish.

kniff
kniff

The good news is our Defensive front can (and will) set up for success, any healthy and viable OLB that we can start.


Pace, Barnes, and Coples is a good start, but I'm looking for some luck as far as health and depth concerns...maybe there is an young and hungry new guy that makes a name for himself this year...that would be awesome!



levi
levi

@jake100 Do you agree with them that the Jets have 0 elite players?

a57se
a57se

@jake100 

Wow, that was just like a Bill Belichick press conference!

a57se
a57se

@Pablo Bruno 

WUT?

You want to take a raw rookie WR and put him at OLB????

Dude.....you are thinking WAYYYYY too much!

Brendan
Brendan

@Monty NFL teams pay PFF for their grades, or at least they used to. It's not arbitrary, they're doing god's work. 


Their grading system is second-to-none, their analysis of the NFL in general oftentimes isn't. That is possible, you know. 

jdb4
jdb4

@Monty 

I thought Rex answered that question beautifully. 

Rex: "Speaking as a married guy, I would recommend he go to that... You ask for their support, you need to support them too."

UncleJoesFunnyFarm
UncleJoesFunnyFarm

@levi @jake100 Elite is a very heavy word. The problem with the "Judges" of elite, is that they usually reserve it for top playmakers and game changers, and the grunts like Mangold and MO, fall just outside of their view. While I agree that those two are elite when compared to their respective positions, the "Judges of elite, might not consider them elite overall based on the above.

jdb4
jdb4

@a57se @Pablo Bruno 

I would debate the use of "raw" there.

Reilly is a rookie, but I wouldn't say he is raw

a57se
a57se

@jdb4 

You would think at 26 he wouldn't be too raw........

levi
levi

@Hanknaples @levi You were pretty high on the Patterson signing now you dont think it was good pick up? If Rexy is in love with McDougle thats a good thing.

jdb4
jdb4

@a57se @jdb4 

Certainly that, among other things his production in college (8.5 sacks his senior year), Utah having a recent history of producing solid defensive players and most "experts" had him as a projected 3rd rounder

Pablo Bruno
Pablo Bruno

@a57se @Pablo Bruno Nah, Richardson is our part time fullback, and for Pryor and Mcdougal, they will get to see action at their positions.

levi
levi

@jake100 @Hanknaples I think Rex knows a little more about what he wants from Coples than you you 2 knuckle heads. Im gonna put my trust in sexy Rexy. 5 sacks and 16 hurries in 7 games isnt to shabby.

levi
levi

@Hanknaples @levi @jake100 Its over his last 7 games when he got healthy. Its in the above article. Say what you will about Rex but he always has a top defense in the league. so yes I do trust Rex on this.


How do you think Miami will fare against sexy Rexy? Im thinking Miami is gonna have a hard time putting points on the board.