Monday, February 21, 2011
Positional analysis: Inside linebacker
This is the 10th part in a daily, position-by-position breakdown of the Jets' roster. Tuesday: Outside linebacker.
Focus: Inside linebacker
Depth chart: David Harris, Bart Scott, Lance Laury, Josh Mauga, Brashton Satele, Brian Toal.
Expiring contracts: Harris, Laury.
Rear-view mirror: Harris' numbers dipped slightly from 2009, but he still led the team in tackles and was voted by his teammates the Jets' MVP. As the "Mike" linebacker, Harris ran Rex Ryan's defense for the second straight year. He was outstanding as an in-the-box 'backer, one of the key reasons the Jets finished No. 3 in rushing defense, but he was exposed at times in pass coverage. Obviously, that's not his strength, but it's laughable that some people think it's a red flag because he got chased down by Patriots' TE Alge Crumpler on an interception in the playoff game. He gets paid to make tackles, not win sprints.
The coaches said Scott graded out highly, claiming he did a better job of playing within the structure of the defense than in 2009. That sounds like coachspeak. Where were the impact plays? Scott did finish second in tackles for loss (seven), but he had only one sack and one forced fumble. He was undisciplined at times (four penalties for 50 yards) and played poorly in the AFC Championship (four missed tackles). Scott galvanized the defense with his toughness and fire, but he wasn't an $8 million-a-year linebacker.
Numbers game: The Jets allowed only 0.88 yards per carry in second-level rushing yardage, third-lowest in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com -- a tribute, in part, to the inside linebackers' ability to plug holes and close quickly.
Crystal ball: Harris was designated the Jets' franchise player, so he isn't going anywhere. From early indications, there's a good chance he'll have a long-term deal by the start of the season -- whenever that is. So the Harris-Scott tandem will remain intact, and that's good news for the defense. One of the goals of the front office is to upgrade the depth; this is the thinnest area on the team.
Hot seat: Harris. All of a sudden, he faces big-money pressure. Will it affect him? Not likely.
Positional rating (scale of 1 to 10): 9.0.