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My 2017 Season: Darron Lee Youth New York Jets Darron Lee NFL Pro Line Green Team Color Player Jersey
If you told me to grade myself at the end of my rookie year on an A-D scale, I’d give a D-minus.
I hold myself to very high standards, which is what made it difficult when my position coach, Mike Caldwell, gave me an offseason checklist. It was hard not because I couldn’t do it, but because I already knew what was on it — study, master my footwork, improve my coverage skills. Simply put, I knew I had to step up in my second year.
Once Dave [Harris] left, I took it as a signal that I needed to speed up my learning curve regardless of who takes over the Mike. I was brought here to make splash plays. I know I’m a young guy at 23 years old, but you have to act older than your age in this league and I feel like my maturity is one of the reasons I’m here.
I felt good going into training camp as I knew what to expect. Playbook — check. Calls — check. This year it was time to just go out and compete. Deep breath. 3…2…1…
I didn’t exhale until we lost in Oakland. I kept inhaling and I didn’t relax. We just allowed 370 rushing yards in two games and that was going to be the end of that story. It was a huge reality check. I was trying to control everything instead of focusing on my assignments and that’s not how this game goes. You can only control your job. Now it’s nice and smooth on the field. I inhale and exhale.
When I settled in, that’s when the fun began. I was comfortable, hungry. I diagnosed plays quicker, I was bringing down the ball carrier behind the line and covering a lot better. Demario [Davis] and I played off each other, making sure we had each other’s backs. He set us up, I honed in on offensive checks and alerted the guys what’s coming. My personal favorite is when you call their play out and you’re right. When everybody on offense looks at you after you call the play, that’s how you know you hit the nail on the head. It’s so much fun. That’s why we were able to play fast. We started doing that in Week 3.
Even though I’m better than my rookie season, don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of splash plays I can make to help change the outcome of the game. We’re right there. Look at all the close games we played in. That’s the best part.
Moving forward, my main focus is turning our hard work into wins. I want to better myself, but I always want to do so in a position where our team is expected to win games instead of everybody counting us out. That’s the next step and that’s a huge hill to climb, but it’s possible.
Let me tell you this, Wholesale Jets Jerseys Nation — greatness is forming inside these walls. Everybody is confident and no one is worried. We’re all sticking together and going out to get better every single day. That’s the beauty of this. We know we’re a young team, we know we’re a hungry team. If you quit, you’re never going to know how good you could be, so that’s why we’re going to keep pushing each other. I’m really looking forward to the growth. We know if we keep chipping away, we’re eventually going to get to the pot of gold.
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Were the Scouting Reports Right? – Darron Lee
Previously, I looked back at the predraft scouting reports of all 2017 Jets rookies to earn significant playing time. With that class in the books, let’s rewind the clock one year and start looking back at the scouting reports of the 2016 Jets draft class.
We’ll start with the 20th pick of the 2016 draft, Darron Lee. Here is a look at the positives of his scouting report, as seen on NFL.com:
Quick to diagnose and flow to the ball. Has unusual ability to find the most efficient routes to the ball. Has athleticism and flexibility to contort his body and succeed through difficult tackle angles. Plays with loose hips, quick feet and desired agility of an NFL weak-side linebacker. Former high school quarterback with the change of direction and speed to be a rangy playmaker. Comfortable in space and excels there. Has plus man cover talent. Willing to stand in and take on blockers with a leveraged strike if his gap is being threatened. Capable gap blitzer with ability to get skinny through the holes.
What seems right?
Yikes. I don’t want to be overly harsh, but there is little from this section I saw from Lee on a weekly basis over the past two years. Is he athletic? Sure, I guess. He doesn’t look like a slug out there, but would any NFL athlete look like one at that raw age? Because, I don’t think he’s a speed demon either. Really, the only part of this I can agree with is that he looks to have somewhat above-average athleticism, but I can’t agree on elite.
What seems off?
“Quick to diagnose and flow to the ball. Has unusual ability to find the most efficient routes to the ball” – In year one, Lee could not do these things. He had more moments of smart play in year two, but he still struggles to consistently do exactly what this scouting report says he was good at doing; finding quick, efficient routes to the football.
“Comfortable in space and excels there. Has plus man cover talent.” No and no, in my opinion. His man coverage ability, though the Jets have thrown him a lot of difficult cover assignments over David Harris and Demario Davis, has not yielded positive results. In space, he takes poor angles and isn’t a great finisher.
“Willing to stand in and take on blockers with a leveraged strike if his gap is being threatened.” I’m not sure about this either. Lee doesn’t seem like a very physical linebacker, and he too often is responsible for leaving gaping holes up the middle.
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Smallish linebacker. Play strength doesn’t come close to matching puffed up listed weight. Balance issues at point of attack could plague him over his NFL career. Has the body type of a big safety. Tape shows few authoritative tackles. Involved in too many arm and shoestring tackles. Comes flying in and fails to come to balance at times. Charged with 21 missed and five broken tackles over the last two seasons. Always at size disadvantage and will have to learn to slip more blocks. Can get better at finding targets in zone coverage.
What seems right?
All of these weaknesses seemed to still plague Lee in 2017. He is absolutely small for the position. I would agree he is less physical than ideal. “Tape shows few authoritative tackles. Involved in too many arm and shoestring tackles.” – I definitely think his ratio of crushing tackles to whiffs is bad. Really, this entire section can still apply if you were writing a report on Lee’s NFL profile.
What seems off?
I can’t disagree with anything in this section.
All of the question marks surrounding Lee on draft day have been issues throughout his NFL career, and they have held him back from utilizing his best traits to their fullest potential. He is definitely the kind of player I thought the Jets were getting; an athletic, but undersized linebacker who takes on a lot of coverage responsibilities. He just hasn’t developed as quickly as hoped.
I will say that I thought Darron Lee took a step forward this year. Specifically in the middle of the year, he had a stretch of games where he really seemed to be putting it together. His 2017 was overall better than his 2016, but it was a case of moving from awful to less awful. He still needs to get better with his recognition, coverage, and tackling. He has solid athleticism for the position and has showcased the ability to string some solid games together. Can he overcome his size deficiency and become a disciplined enough player to complete a full season of quality play? Still only 23 years old, Lee was a very young prospect who has had a lot on his plate early in his career. He’s entering year three, though. It’s time for him to learn from all of those early experiences and start producing like a first-round pick, since that title alone isn’t going to buy him playing time much longer.