The Jets have a great defensive line, a really strong secondary and a core of linebackers that are stout against the run. All that has been missing from having a complete defense was a quality pass rushing edge linebacker and a linebacker with coverage ability, last night they fixed the lack of a coverage linebacker with the selection of Darron Lee.
For years linebackers have seemed to have lost value, with most linebackers being viewed as interchangeable, and that still holds true for two-down backers, but linebackers with coverage skills or pass rushing ability have never been valued more. Lee can do both, but it's his ability in coverage that makes him standout.
"He covers very well," Todd Bowles said. "He needs a little bit of technique work, but he's very athletic. He understands the game. He's a very intelligent ball player."
In today's NFL, with offenses spreading the field and throwing the ball all over the place defenses need versatile linebackers who can do it all, the hardest skillset to find is coverage ability. Lee can cover tight ends, receivers and running backs. Just think about how many times the Jets have been exposed by running backs running wheel-routes, now they have the chess piece to counter that attack.
When asked what attributes he brings to the Jets defense Lee said "Aside from being a great teammate, definitely playmaking ability, bring the speed, the coverage ability and just being able to hunt the ball down and go make plays."
Lee's strength is his speed — he ran the fastest 40-time at the combine at 4.47 — and coverage skills but he is a complete linebacker who will start as a nickel backer, but in the Jets defense that means he's not just a speciality player, he'll be on the field far more than not.
"It wasn't so much a coverage-address pick. It was moreso having a potential three-down player that's coming with this pick." Bowles said. "We got a guy that can play three downs. We didn't want to get a specialty guy and hopefully he can grow into that sooner than later."
The one knock on Lee is his size, 232-pounds is smaller than a traditional linebacker but with offenses shifting to more of a spread-style so will of views on the ideal size of linebackers. The Jets are obviously comfortable with his weight as is.
"I'm happy with his weight right now. He doesn't have to be a 240, 250-pound linebacker. That's not what we're looking for," Bowles said. "We're looking for a more athletic guy that has some speed and that can play three downs and play side-to-side and be versatile. So 232 is fine."
Of course to play three downs means he's going to have to play against the run and that's where the concern about his weight could come in, but that's what makes the Jets the perfect fit for him.
"We have a heck of a defensive line in New York and the guys up there are hungry," Lee said. "We have a whole defense that's hungry so I feel that I'll be fine stacking up against the run. I'm not really worried."
He shouldn't be worried and neither should Jets fans. Mike Maccagnan looked into trading up for the gas-mask wearing, free-falling Laremy Tunsil, but ultimately decided to stay put at 20 and he came away with the best, healthy, coverage linebacker in the draft which was exactly what this defense needed. They still need to add a true pass rusher to become a complete defense but Maccagnan filled a huge need with a player with a fairly rare skillset in today's NFL.
"In today's game you're getting a lot of spread offenses and empty sets and the fullback is almost non-existent right now. So you need a little more speed here and there," Bowles said. "If you go nickel, they line up and run the ball, and if you don't go nickel, they spread you out. So to have a guy that can do both, it kind of limits you with the substitution package."
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null