Kevin Pierre-Louis has risen from injuries and an early suspension to become one of the more versatile players for the New York Jets.
FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—Kevin Pierre-Louis’ official designation on the New York Jets roster reads “linebacker”. Lately, though, he has gone far beyond the LB initials.
In recent weeks, first-year Jet Pierre-Louis has become one of the more versatile players on the team. In addition to his defensive duties, which have increased in the wake of an unexpected loss, Pierre-Louis has expanded his reach to special teams.
The linebacker gave a preview of what was to come in Cleveland back in September, getting his hand on a Britton Colquitt punt that set the Jets up in prime touchdown territory. While that punt didn’t officially go down as a block, Pierre-Louis would eventually earn a tally in the category on Dec. 2, when he did so in the Jets’ visit to Tennessee.
It was the Jets’ first blocked punt since December 2013. Broken streaks aside, Pierre-Louis was just happy to help his team.
“At this point, I’m trying to make up for lost time, take advantage of whatever opportunities are thrown my way,” Pierre-Louis said after practice this week. “I’m a part of this team, and I’ll help them any way I can.”
Technically speaking, it’s a surprise to see Pierre-Louis make contributions this late in the Jets’ season, especially considering how things started off. After four modest seasons with the Seahawks and Chiefs, Pierre-Louis joined the Jets on a two-year deal in March. The first blow to his season came before the first regular season snap, as he was suspended for the NFL’s substances of abuse policy.
Injury problems also resurfaced for the Boston College alum. After ending 2017 in injured reserve in Seattle, a foot ailment cost him four games this season.
“To be blunt, it’s been tough, mentally and, obviously, physically,” Pierre-Louis, 27, said of his 2018 season. He hopes to further contribute before the season lets out.
“You could always do more. That’s just the mentality that I have. What is more? At the end of the day, you don’t know until you do it, see the result from it. Obviously, there’s something more to do, to gets some wins to represent that.”
Since returning, Pierre-Louis has kept up his special teams prowess and has also been called upon to rise in a defense with dwindling starters. The downtrodden Jets were dealt another dose of bad news when Darron Lee was put on lockdown for the rest of the season via a four-game suspension assessed earlier this month. Pierre-Louis’ first extended action of the season involved neutralizing mobile threat Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills.
Allen posted pretty stats in last Sunday’s tilt, but Pierre-Louis most important play came when he forced the first of the rookie’s three turnovers. With Buffalo up 7-0, he tracked down an escaping Allen and knocked the ball loose near the Bills’ 30-yard line. Though the Jets struggled to move the ball closer, the good starting field position allowed them to kick a field goal to trim the lead. He wound up earning a season-high four tackles in the Jets’ 27-23 victory.
Notably, he also haunted Allen once more when he covered the latter in an ill-fated Buffalo trick play toward the end of the game. The failed third-down trickery forced a field goal, allowing the Jets to march down the field for a winning touchdown.
Pierre-Louis’ rise has attracted the attention of his coaches.
“When we bought (him) in evaluating him in free agency, you loved his speed and athleticism. That’s kind of the stuff that you’re seeing now,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “He’s able to come in the second half, especially the Buffalo game, really made some plays. He was really somewhat our spy guy against them and made a few plays in there. He really did a good job.”
“Every young player should watch that kid practice every single day, because that kid plays it like it’s a game,” special teams coordinator Brant Boyer added. “I think he’s smart, he’s professional, he studies and he’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got. I think that’s what really separates him from being a solid special teamer to an upper level, really good guy. I think he is a damn good player in this league for sure.”
A greater challenge awaits the Jets this weekend in the form of the Houston Texans. They will deal with not just another mobile quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but explosive yardage gainers like receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Lamar Miller. The Saturday game (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network) presents an obstacle in the Jets’ quest to build 2019 momentum, but Pierre-Louis is looking forward to dealing with things head-on.
“I’ve had my flashes, done things I know I can do. Things that (the team) knew I can do. That’s why they brought me here.” Pierre-Louis said. “There’s definitely some more that needs to be done. That’s why we are where we are right now. Obviously, I haven’t done enough.”
Pierre-Louis is set to be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game, listed as “questionable” on Thursday’s official injury report. Fellow defenders Jordan Jenkins (shoulder/ankle) and Trumaine Johnson (foot) were under the same designation. Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (concussion) is out, as are receiver Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and running back Isaiah Crowell (toe).