D-Lee a Foundation Piece
Heading into his third year with the Green & White, inside linebacker Darron Lee has become a foundational piece for a young defense. The jump from Year 1 to Year 2 was evident for Lee as he recorded three sacks, two forced fumbles and 93 tackles in 2017.
"I feel like this is all falling into place at the right time," Lee said this spring. "I've got the tutorial, I had my training wheels the first two years. Having David Harris, who's an ultimate pro, and Demario [Davis] was a great pro and he had a great year last year, I learned a lot from them. Just in those two years, I have a pretty good sense of direction of where to take it for this team and what's going to be asked of me to help this team succeed."
With the offseason departure of Davis, play-calling responsibilities will now shift to Lee.
"He's done a good job so far, I'm just looking for him to continue to make plays," assistant head coach/ILB coach Mike Caldwell said of Lee. "He needs to go out there and be a high-energy guy, run around, be a little more vocal, and continue to be successful."
A 'Tackling Machine'
While Lee may be new to the signal-calling game, he can find peace in knowing he won't be doing it solo. After signing with the Jets in March, Avery Williamson will also man the middle and share some of the play-calling responsibilities with his new partner.
At just 26-years old, three years younger than Demario Davis, Williamson joins the youth movement that drives the Jets' defense. He's been referred to as a "tackling machine" by head coach Todd Bowles after finishing last season with 92 tackles and leading the Titans in 2015 and 2016 with 100-plus each season. With an already physical, run-stuffing style of play, he has system familiarity after lining up in a 3-4 in Tennessee. The biggest challenge for this former Titan will be hitting the books.
"I just want him to come in and really bring energy to the team," said Caldwell. "He's a guy that's played for a while, and made a bunch of plays in the league. I'm looking forward to him continuing to do that."
Top Images of the Jets Linebacker Unit at Multimedia Day and On Field
On the Outside
After being limited this spring with a shoulder injury, Jordan Jenkins looks to bounce back and make some noise in his third professional camp. One of the leading 'backers and a staple on the outside, Jenkins didn't end year 2 quietly after recording three sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two pass defenses.
"I think he just stays the course, he's got some athletic ability to him," OLB coach Kevin Greene said of Jenkins. "His work ethic is good, he's a student of the game, and this is his second year of implementing some of the fundamentals and techniques that I'm teaching him. He's going to be a lot better at it."
One larger question remains on the outside: who will line up across the way from Jenkins? Josh Martin has always flown under the radar, but that doesn't mean he hasn't seen production on the field. A consistent contributor on special teams, Martin amassed 1.5 sacks, two pass defenses, and his 20 quarterback hits last season were second only to the team's QBH leader Leonard Williams.
Opportunity also presents itself to sixth-year veteran David Bass, who recorded 3.5 sacks for the Jets in 2017, and Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue, a third-round pick in 2015 and a fifth-rounder in 2017, who both finished last season on injured reserve.
"I think it's a good competition there from that standpoint, but obviously we need better production from everyone from a sack standpoint," head coach Todd Bowles said. "But it's not about sacks, it's about disrupting the quarterback and we've got a good competition there. We've got guys that we think are capable, we've just got to see who wins the spots."
Vets Add Depth
Both Lee and Williamson will receive backup on the inside from sixth-year veteran Kevin Minter and fifth-year 'backer Kevin Pierre-Louis. Minter is a familiar face to head coach Todd Bowles, having been under the latter's tutelage his first two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014. Pierre-Louis, a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2014, appeared in 14 games last season with the Chiefs.
"I'm just ready to play whenever my number is called," Pierre-Louis said. "You never know what's going to happen. I'm here to compete. I definitely didn't come here thinking I'm going to fill a certain role."