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Thursday, January 26, 2012
Positional analysis: Linebacker

By Rich Cimini

This is the seventh part in a nine-part review of the 2011 season, a position-by-position analysis:

Position: Linebacker

Overall grade (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7.0

Depth chart: David Harris (16 starts/980 plays), Calvin Pace (16/977), Bart Scott (15/677), Jamaal Westerman (3/411), Aaron Maybin (0/239), Josh Mauga (1/145), Bryan Thomas (3/137), Garrett McIntyre (3/85), Nick Bellore (0/11).

Gold star: Harris.

Disappointing: Scott.

Stat check: Maybin had 16 QB pressures in 197 pass-rushing opportunities, the best ratio on the team, according to ProFootballFocus.com

Analysis: Basically, the Jets had to play with three linebackers after losing Thomas (torn Achilles' tendon) in Week 4, as neither Westerman nor McIntyre proved to be the answer at OLB. The instability at that position really hurt the ability to contain perimeter runs, a big reason why the Jets plummeted to 13th in rush defense.

The overall unit produced 36.5 big plays (sacks, INTs and forced fumbles), with Harris and Maybin contributing 19 of those. Harris, an every-down 'backer, played well enough to make the Pro Bowl. He got to the quarterback (five sacks, 10 QB hits) and improved in pass coverage (four INTs), although he still was exposed at times by quick RBs. Maybin, plucked off the scrap heap in Week 4, recorded a team-high six sacks. It was a great story of personal redemption, but it's also damning when your leading sacker is a guy that was picked up off the street. Maybin was a one-trick pony, a situational rusher with one move, but he added a speed dimension to a dormant pass rush.

Pace, finally playing a full season, disappointed as a pass rusher (4.5 sacks, 17 QB hits). He disappeared late in season, with only 0.5 sacks in the final six games. Pace would be better if he had a legitimate pass-rushing threat on the opposite side, forcing opponents to shift their protection schemes. Overall, he did a solid, blue-collar job as a run defender. In fact, he led the team with 10 tackles-for-loss.

Scott saw his role reduced, as he was removed on passing downs. There are two lasting images from his season: Getting pancaked by light-blocking Raiders TE Kevin Boss on Darren McFadden's 70-yard TD run and flipping off a photographer the day after the season ended. 'Nuf said. Westerman, pressed into a bigger role because of the Thomas injury, flashed some potential as a pass rusher (3.5 sacks), but he was overmatched as an every-down player. Mauga showed some pass-coverage ability as a replacement for Scott in certain packages.

2012 free agents: Thomas (UFA), Maybin (RFA), Westerman (RFA).

On the bubble: Scott, Pace.

Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.