In The Absence of Two Veterans, David Harris Steps Up In Jets Victory

Sam FogelgarenCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 07:  David Harris #52 of the New York Jets stands on the field against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL game on December 7, 2008 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In a game where the Jets were without two of their top defensive stars, another player stepped up and led the defense.

Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace were both suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. 

The absence of those two stars let young David Harris emerge as the star of the game.

The young linebacker led the team with 11 tackles and also sacked Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub once, as the Jets went on to win the game 24-7.

While Harris' contributed in a big way, the rest of the linebacking corp, which includes 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston, long time Jet Bryan Thomas, and Pro Bowler Bart Scott, combined for just seven tackles. 

Harris is not a stranger to having big games. 

In week eight of the 2007 season, Harris posted 17 tackles and a sack against the Buffalo Bills. The following week, Harris put up a career high 24 tackles against the Washington Redskins

While the rest of the Jets linebackers and lineman (no defensive lineman for the Jets had more than two tackles) got a free pass with the big day of David Harris, it shouldn't be expected.

Here is an overview of the defensive lineman and linebackers, and how they did in week one, and what they need to do to improve for the future.

David Harris: Had a fantastic game, posting 11 tackles, a sack and a pass deflection. The third year pro did an extraordinary job of leading a defense missing two key players. If he can keep this production up for the rest of the season, Harris will establish himself as one of the games elite linebackers.

Grade: A

Kris Jenkins: 

Jenkins had just one tackle, on the first play of the game from scrimmage. He also had a QB hit. Though Jenkins numbers don't look splendid, his 335 pound frame pushing up the middle held Steve Slaton to just 17 yards and the Texans rushing game to just 38 yards.

Though Jenkins only had one tackle, don't be fooled by his numbers. Jenkins is a four time Pro Bowler, yet his career high in tackles is 39, which is a little more than two tackles per game. Jenkins did his job, which was to soften the running game of the opposing team.

Grade: B+

Jamaal Westerman: Westerman was an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, and wasn't expected to make the team, but ended up having a spot on the roster.

He wasn't unbelievable, but he posted one of the two Jet sacks. Two tackles wasn't anything much, but for an undrafted free agent having more sacks than Marques Douglas, Bart Scott and Kris Jenkins, he deserves some credit.

Grade: B- 

Vernon Gholston: Though Gholston tripled his tackles total from last year, it wasn't anything special for the man the Jets made the sixth overall pick just a year ago.

For Gholston to succeed, he needs to be more consistent and must have an effect on every play, rather than disappearing during games.

Grade: C+

Bryan Thomas: The second longest tenured Jet struggled with just two tackles; one that stopped Steve Slaton on a four yard run and one that stopped Andre Johnson for seven yards on a third and nine.

Though his second tackle was important, Thomas needs to be consistent and use all his 266 pounds to get to the quarterback. 

Grade: C-

Marques Douglas: Though the former New Orleans Saint, San Francisco 49er and Baltimore Raven had just two tackles, they all came on the first drive in the first quarter.

Though his tackle of Steve Slaton that sent the Texans from a first and 10 to a second and 12 was productive, it was about the only productive part of his day, as he simply disappeared after that point.

He needs to be consistent, making plays throughout the whole game.


Bart Scott: The biggest signing of the offseason had a rough outing. Scott had just two tackles, and wasn't a factor all day.

While the defensive line will improve with the presence of Shaun Ellis next week, there will still be a lingering pressure on Scott to be the leader of this defense.

Grade: C-

Overall, the Jets defense did a good job.

Kris Jenkins did a solid job on the line, and David Harris came through to have a huge game. The defense also benefited from the success of the offense, which scored 24 points and had more time of possession than the Texans.

Shaun Ellis will be back next week, which will provide another good player on the d-line. The Jets will have to go without Calvin Pace until week five, so that will put even more pressure on David Harris and Bart Scott. The Jets really need Scott to step up and David Harris to do what he did against Houston.

If that happens, the Jets will be a top five defense in no time under their new coach, Rex Ryan.