Darron Lee is certainly not being saved by the Jets for a rainy day.
The Jets' first-round linebacker has played in more than three-quarters of the defense's plays the first two games, leads the unit with 10 solo tackles and is tied for the lead with 12 total tackles. He also got his first pro start against the Bills, even if it was a "scheme" start.
But while No. 50 has flashed to the ball well at the start of his pro career, one of his biggest plays to date came while buried in the middle of the fourth-and-1 scrum from the Jets 45 with seven minutes to play at Buffalo. Lee described the play this way after today's practice:
"I initially had to tackle the guard because he was the lead blocker for [LeSean] McCoy. I knew I had to stop him because if there was nobody there, they would've gotten the first down easy. I knew it was short when we stopped him. Then they spotted the ball — that might've been a little generous. But I just went, 'There's no way they got it.' "
Lee was right. With him and his teammates forming a forward wall and Sheldon Richardson holding McCoy from behind, the Bills gambled and lost by about two inches.
"It was amazing," Lee said. "I was hootin' and hollerin'."
The Ohio State product has been a key contributor to the Jets' third-down defense, which, except for some longball glitches on the back end, has been as sturdy this year, ranked sixth in the NFL in giving up a 28.6% conversion rate, as last year, when the Green & White finished third.
Additionally, the Jets have been the proverbial green wall on third-and-1/fourth-and-1, stopping four straight plays by the Bills in those situations. On third-and-1 last season the Jets allowed a franchise-low 43.5% conversion rate (10-for-23). So far this year opponents are 0-for-3.
Green & White Hit the Field for the Second Practice of Chiefs Week
Head coach Todd Bowles said Lee has taken well to the pro game.
"He's a good athlete. He's going to run to the ball. That's one thing we try to do is run to the football," Bowles said. "He's still learning some things, thinking a little bit instead of pulling the trigger. But the times he's pulled the trigger, he's played good."
Lee and the defense face their next challenge from the Chiefs, who have struggled to convert the same percentage of third downs, 28.6%, as the Jets have allowed. But they have one dangerous back in Spencer Ware and the possible return of the NFL's all-time yards/carry back in Jamaal Charles.
"Charles is a very shifty guy, very fast in space. They lean on him a lot, so I know they'd be pretty excited to get him back. Ware runs very hard and all their backs run hard," Lee analyzed like a vet. "For them as an offense, the ball comes out very quick. The tight end, [Travis] Kelce, makes a lot of plays for them. And No. 10 [Tyreek Hill] is very fast. We just put in our game plan today, and all that stuff we've already taken note of and we're preparing for."
And Lee is preparing to contribute more in his third pro game than he did in his second.
"They're not babying me, not at all," he said. "And I'm glad to be here and help."
The Injury PictureBowles added starting WRs Brandon Marshall (knee) and Eric Decker (shoulder) to his Did Not Participate list at today's practice. He was unswayed by Decker saying Tuesday he was ready to play at KC. "Depends on the progress," the HC said. "It'll probably go up until gametime. If I see them running, I'm satisfied, I will. If I'm not, I won't." ... G James Carpenter, LB Erin Henderson and QB Bryce Petty also didn't practice. LB David Harris (shoulder) and RB Matt Forte (knee) were limited. ... The Jets waived DL Jake Ceresna from IR.