During our weekly chat on The Jets Podcast Network, I brought up rookie ILB Darron Lee to Bart Scott and the Madbacker interjected with praise.
"You need that energy," he said of Lee, who never left the field against the Patriots and tied for the team lead with 11 tackles. "The light bulb is on."
Lee's speed and athleticism were on display throughout the Week 12 contest that pitted the old AFC East rivals against each other. He also was given more responsibility in sub packages, calling defensive plays and making sure the front was aligned correctly. But focused on improvement, Lee was disappointed that a showing of an inside blitz cost him in his pursuit of RB James White on a critical fourth-down conversion. With the Jets holding a tenuous one-point lead, White was able to take a short pass and get 4.5 yards on a fourth-and-4.
"It's about the details, it's about inches," Scott said. "It's funny, you think about any given Sunday, it's a game of inches. And about 20 inches cost the Jets an opportunity. It's not about the inability to make the play, it's about the technique and awareness. The thing is, it's 80% mental. We know he has the athleticism, the raw ability, but now we just have to fin- tune it and polish up that diamond."
A playmaker at Ohio State, Lee is a 22-year-old who played 28 games for the Buckeyes in two seasons while recording 27.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three interceptions. An ankle injury in Week 6 forced Lee out of the lineup for three weeks, but he made his return to game action against the Rams and then was full-go against the Pats attack last Sunday.
"Sometimes you get that experience in the game or sometimes in practice. This is his first time going against Tom Brady," Scott said. "Now he understands what he's dealing with and understands he has to think on the next level. You have to think, not just react. You need to be proactive, not reactive."
The Jets selected Lee No. 20 overall in last April's draft. He led the team in tackles before going down vs. the Cardinals and the expectation is he'll continue to get progress over this final five-game stretch.
"Pre-snap recognition, understanding your own scouting report: what do they say you can't do and you have to understand situational football," Scott said. "That's something that comes with being around tremendous teachers and learning. It's a process, but you want to speed that process up so that you can improve as a player and help your team win. Then you can elevate your status and your respect around the league."