Darron Lee’s transition to eventual defensive leader is already underway.
The Jets’ rookie linebacker was given the responsibility of calling plays in some sub packages during Sunday’s 22-17 loss to the Patriots. That job usually is reserved for 32-year-old David Harris, in his 10th NFL season.
The added responsibility didn’t seem to faze Lee, who played all 73 defensive snaps against the Patriots, seven more than Harris. Each made 11 tackles, tying for the team high.
“A couple times on third down I was a dime linebacker, so I had to make the call,” said the 22-year-old, who returned to action Nov. 13 against the Rams after missing three games with an ankle injury. “I was the only linebacker there. So it was making calls and whatever adjustments to the formation that we were getting.
“But playing every down, I was fine. I didn’t feel like that was too much. I did that type of stuff when I was in college. I can go all day. I’ll be out there whenever they need me.”
Lee impressed Sunday against the Jets’ biggest rival, flashing his speed and quickness against Tom Brady’s offense.
“I thought I did a pretty good job,” the first-round pick from Ohio State said. “Made sure everybody was lined up correctly and had their matchups. Everybody was on the same page. That’s all it comes down to. When you want to play fast, just make sure everybody is on the same page. And we were.”
But Lee admitted there’s one play in particular he’d like to have back. Showing maturity beyond his years, he shouldered the blame for the loss. Lee lamented a missed opportunity on James White’s critical fourth-quarter play.
With 2:53 left and the Patriots on the Jets’ 37, the running back caught a 4-yard pass on fourth-and-4 with Lee in coverage. With a fresh set of downs, Brady connected with Chris Hogan down the middle for a 25-yard gain before Malcolm Mitchell caught the go-ahead 8-yard touchdown. Lee said the outcome of the game would have been different had he lined up a couple steps to the left, pre-snap, on White’s fourth-down conversion.
“I was giving a show up towards the end in B-gap, just bluffing for a blitz,” the 6-1, 232-pound Lee said of the momentum-changing play. “But we were in man-to-man. Given the splits of the running back, I should’ve been a little wider instead of stunting and showing like I was going to blitz.
“For me, all I had to do was take two steps wider and I would’ve beat him to the point and he probably wouldn’t have gotten those four yards.”
Notes & quotes: The Jets released OL Zach Sterup from the practice squad.