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Can Bart Scott Still Make a Difference for NFL Teams?

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Can Bart Scott Still Make a Difference for NFL Teams?
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

In what was largely a cap-saving move, Bart Scott, one of the faces of the Rex Ryan era in New York, has been released by the Jets and now finds himself an unrestricted free agent. 

Bart Scott has gained a reputation around the league for his "outspokenness" and is certainly not the player he was back in 2009 when he earned himself a multi-million dollar contract with the Jets, but that does not mean that the 32-year-old has nothing to offer to an NFL team.

His exclusion from third-down packages has created the perception that Bart Scott is no longer a valuable commodity in today's pass-happy NFL. However, looking at a combination of film and statistical evidence, Scott will have no problem finding himself a job in the NFL next year. 

While he was not the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was a few years earlier, he was hardly a liability on the Jets' eighth-ranked defense. According to ProFootballFocus.com, there were only four Jet defenders (with more than 93 snaps on defense) who performed better than Scott in 2013. What makes that even more impressive is that he played through a toe injury that most players would not have been able to play through. 

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

At year's end, PFF ranked Scott as the 18th-best inside linebacker in football. 

Scott is known for his run-defending ability, but he actually graded out positively in PFF's rankings when asked to play in coverage. He should not be included in dime packages with his lack of top-end speed, but he can hold his own in limited space on first and second downs. 

Let's take a look at what the film shows in terms of what Scott brings to an NFL team:

 

Taking on Blocks

Bart Scott has made a career out of throwing his body around to allow other players, whether it's David Harris or Ray Lewis, to make plays and get tackle numbers. 

The following play is not going to show up on the stat sheet, as Scott did not even make the tackle on this critical 3rd-and-1, but these are the types of plays that coaches notice and recognize.

The play starts out with the Jets in a variation of the "46" defense, with one deep safety to help Cromartie one-on-one in coverage. LaRon Landry and the rest of the front seven are playing the run all the way, evidenced by their run blitz. 

Scott immediately finds his assignment, which in this case is the fullback. He explodes after him, knocking him back a good yard. 

The Cardinals' running back does not have a cutback lane, and the Jets are able to swarm on him to make the stop. 

Disengaging Defenders

As good as he is at it, simply throwing your body into defenders is hardly a rare trait—NFL teams want players who can work their way out of blocks to make stops at the point of attack, lessening the need for secondary help leading to longer runs down the field.

Here, Scott does the same thing as he did in the previous play, attacking the tackle head-on to help blow up the play.

The difference is, he is able to disengage the blocker and help make the tackle on his own without a swarm of defenders ready to help him. 

 

Power and Leverage

Anyone can throw their body into a blocker, but it takes a wily veteran like Scott to know how to use their strength.

Despite being on the opposite side of the play side, Scott engages a guard (usually work designated for defensive tackles) head-on, without hesitation.  

When he sees that the play is designed for the opposite side, he is able to drive the guard using his lower body strength and hand placement across the formation to be as involved as possible in the play. 

The Jets could have stopped this play just as easily had Scott simply engaged his guard and held his containment. Instead, Scott showed a combination of incredible strength, technique and hustle in a meaningless Week 16 game. 

 

Shooting Gaps: Anticipating Snap Counts

Scott certainly does not have the speed and athleticism of younger linebackers, but he makes up for it with his instincts and awareness that can only come from years of NFL experience.

In this play, Scott is set to blitz the "A" gap (between the center and guard). However, he is able to time his blitz perfectly, anticipating the snap count to destroy the play before it ever had a chance.

The running back would normally pick up the added pressure, but Scott is so fast off the snap count that he beats him to it, notching the sack.  

These types of plays simply cannot be taught; it takes a player who has a sixth sense of what is going on around him to be able to make impact plays like this. 

 

Pass Coverage

The fact that Bart Scott is no longer a three-down player is hardly a secret. Since the middle of the 2011 season, Scott has seen his snap count cut dramatically by his removal from dime and nickel packages. In 2012, he started to lose more snaps on earlier downs as the Jets tried to get rookie Demario Davis as much playing time as possible (which was accelerated because of his aforementioned toe injury). 

His age was on display last Thanksgiving night against the Patriots (the infamous "Buttfumble game"), as he appeared to be plodding through mud to keep up with Shane Vereen on a missed assignment.

The play was hardly all his fault, but the way he was struggling to even stay in the screen as Shane Vereen raced to an 83-yard score is all the evidence we need to know that Bart has no business being out in space. 

 

Off the Field

Whoever ends up signing Scott is getting a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to his locker room demeanor. 

On the field, you will never see Scott take a play off. A former undrafted free agent, Scott is willing to do all of the dirty work it took him to get to where he is today. Effort and work ethic is never an issue. 

However, when Bart takes the pads off, there is no telling what is going to come out of his mouth. Sometimes, it's all in good fun:

Sometimes, he can get unprofessional, even violent.

Early in the season, Scott had to be separated from reporter Dan Leberfeld after an argument over a locker room picture escalated. Later in the season, he tried to lead a media boycott after a win (to no avail). This is all following an incident in which Bart flipped off reporters during locker room clean-outs after the 2011 season (in which the Jets lost three games in a row to miss the playoffs).  

That said, Scott does deserve a massive amount of credit for creating a new culture in New York. His presence as a defensive leader vaulted the Jets' defense into first and third place during their 2009 and 2010 playoff runs. 

Scott has a rocky relationship with the media, but perhaps a move to a smaller market would help muffle some of his outbursts, as the highly invasive New York media clearly wore on him as the years progressed. 

 

Where Does He Fit?

Who in the NFL is in the market for a run-stopping 3-4 inside linebacker who will be 33 years old by the time the 2013 season starts?

More teams than you think. 

Yes, the passing game has taken over the NFL, but failure to neglect stopping the run has rippling effects throughout any team. There are only a handful of 3-4 teams, such as the 49ers, who can trot out the same inside linebackers on every down and expect production in both aspects of the game.

That said, rebuilding teams should not have interest in an aging linebacker like Scott. Teams interested in Scott should be a few role-playing defensive pieces away from championship contention, not trying to build a roster from the bottom up.

Here are some teams that could be in the market for Scott this spring:

Indianapolis Colts: A playoff team that had problems stopping the run all year. Scott knows a handful of players on that team because of he and head coach Chuck Pagano's time spent in Baltimore

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have just one starting linebacker under contract (Vontaze Burfict) and have never been afraid to take a chance on players with checkered backgrounds. 

USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Lewis is never afraid to take a chance on players few others are wiling to deal with.

Houston Texans: This team could not recover from the loss of Brian Cushing. Scott would give them depth and improve their run defense. 

Buffalo Bills: The Bills, a 4-3 team, are not an ideal schematic fit and are not a playoff team just yet, but he would help Mike Pettine with a smooth installment of his new defense. 

New Orleans Saints: With a move to a 3-4 under Rob Ryan, the Saints need run-stopping help in the worst way. 

No one knows for sure just where Scott will end up, but Scott is still a quality player that can help a team win games. 

As much as many would like for Bart Scott to ride off into the sunset, you have not seen the last of the outspoken linebacker just yet. 

 

All screenshots provided by NFL Game Rewind.

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