Yes, linebacking is an art when you watch film of New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott.
Alternate title: “Bart Scott is f—ing awesome.”
A lot of fans seem to be divided over Scott. Some of them see him for what he is, a bulldozing team leader who dominates blockers and is a key reason the Jets defense runs so smooth.
Yet another group of fans think he’s overrated, overpaid, too loud for his own good and doesn’t show up when the Jets need him most.
Quite frankly, those fans are idiots.
ProFootballFocus, one of the great football sites out there and one mentioned very often here on Jets Report, have written favorably about Scott in the past. He was even named the NFL’s 29th-best overall player of 2010 by PFF.
This week, they wrote an entire piece on Scott, and how he goes “beyond the tackle” to do what he does so well. Their advanced stats confirm what I already knew: Scott is damn good, and the Jets would not be the defense they are without him.
There are 11 guys playing defense on any given play, and most of the time only one of them is making the tackle, but that doesn’t mean that the other ten were just riding shotgun.
In fact, oftentimes players other than the tackler may have had a far bigger, more destructive impact on that play, but there’s no stat in place to track it and you may not even notice it when watching the play. You’ll see the runner cut inside, try to reverse field, and eventually get taken down, but you might not catch why he had to do that – because his lead blocker was just blown up by a defender and the entire play was dead in the water before it really got going.
Bart Scott is the master of those plays. His job is often not to tackle the ball-carrier. Instead, he is to attack the lead block, blow it up, and re-route the runner so that another player can make the tackle and add a mark to the stat-sheet. There isn’t a player in the league that attacks a lead block like Bart Scott.
What sets him apart, though, is that his impact isn’t limited to just fullbacks and tight ends, as Scott will punish linemen as well, a job all too many linebackers either shirk, or simply can’t do.
The author, Sam Monson, goes on to list a couple of specific plays in which Scott did what he does best. Which is, blast through a tackler and blow up the play before it ever gets started.
Then he goes on to mention how people cannot get too caught up in the number of tackles a guy makes, but rather the quality of the tackle. Compared to fellow linebacker David Harris, Scott doesn’t make as many tackles, but he makes them count.
Though Scott ranks shy of Harris purely in terms of tackles, he actually makes a greater proportion of his tackles closer to the line of scrimmage, often notching a defensive stop as well as a tackle on the play.
Our 3rd rated ILB overall, he leapfrogs Patrick Willis and Lawrence Timmons to the top of the pile when looking just at performance in the run game. Scott’s grade of +27.5 is some distance clear of the next best mark, the +20.1 that Timmons scored.
Harris, despite a decent season by his standards, was 24th against the run, scoring +6.8 in that regard. It’s not necessarily the reckless abandon with which Scott takes on blockers, but the fact that he is regularly taking on – and beating – blockers at or around the line of scrimmage, something many linebackers can’t do.
Monson also takes on this bizarre notion from some Scott-haters that he disappeared in the playoffs this past year, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
One strange criticism we heard of Scott from several reputable sources was that he went AWOL in the playoffs this season, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
The explanation for this can be found in the things we’ve just been talking about above. In the three playoff games, Scott tallied just nine tackles, but he graded +7.1 against the run and +8.2 overall for those games.
So where is the positive coming from? Well, ignoring plays in coverage, Scott recorded five key plays against blockers, seven positive plays, two neutral plays and only four marginal plays (plays where the blocker marginally got the better of Scott). He had zero strongly negative plays against blockers across the three games.
So hopefully by now you get the picture. I can’t stand this baseless notion that Bart Scott is all bark and no bite. You can see what the research shows about Scott’s effectiveness. Better yet, go ask opposing fullbacks if they think Scott’s overrated.
The point, of course, is that Scott does the work you don’t notice on the surface of games. He might not be making the tackles and showing up on the highlight reel, but that doesn’t mean he was anonymous in the game. Anyone suggesting he disappeared in the playoffs simply needs to take a closer look at what he did during those games, and ask the blockers that had to deal with him whether they felt he was a non-factor.
Statistics can help make things easier to understand, and help make an argument seem more convincing, but football remains blocking and tackling, not simply tackling. Don’t ignore a linebacker of Bart Scott’s caliber just because he’s not racking up eye-popping tackle numbers, because believe us, he’s destroying blockers on a regular basis.
That he is.