New York Jets defensive quarterback C.J. Mosley comes to the football field equipped with a filthy skill set few can emulate.
The offense breaks the huddle. No, it’s not one of Tom Brady’s patented “hurry to the line and catch the defense off guard” situations. It’s a critical 3rd-and-7 on a sunny October day in the swamps of Northern New Jersey.
The New England Patriots go empty. With 11 personnel on the field, this means it’s a strong left with two wideouts and the tight end over there opposite another wideout and the running back on the right. On the strong side, the tight end is far left with Julian Edelman and another weapon stacked tight.
Josh McDaniels is up to his pick-and-rub tricks.
New York Jets defensive quarterback C.J. Mosley understands exactly what’s happening. The call is a Cover 1 out of the nickel. A four-man rush is ready to take on five linemen, Marcus Maye is the lone deep safety in a single-high look, the three corners are matched up on the three wideouts, Avery Williamson is out the way on the weak side in a man-to-man on the back, and Jamal Adams is tasked with the man coverage on the tight end.
It’s man coverage across the board with Mosley as the roamer. More importantly, it’s what he does pre-snap that makes all the difference in the world.
He calls strong left, looks back at Maye to see his shading. Since there are no burners on the field, Maye can shade to the strong side (left). The two outside covers are in press. Good. What’s troubling is the Edelman stack. Darryl Roberts and Parry Nickerson are tasked with handling the double wideout stack and Mosley notices an issue. Against an offense notorious for rubbing, ensuring stacks and bunches are aligned with different levels pre-snap is big.
Mosley shouts to Roberts and Nickerson to get off the same depth. They notice it. Nickerson moves up in more of an outside-shade press while Roberts hangs back a little. Additionally, since it’s an empty look, Mosley yells at both edges to pinch. With no rushing threat at all and Brady hating inside pressure more than Roger Goodell’s face, the defensive quarterback throws both edges from a 9-technique (far outside the tackles) to a 4-technique (head-up with the tackles).
The ball is snapped. Immediately, Brady is uncomfortable due to the congestion up the middle. He’s hesitant only to flush out a bit and throw a terrible ball for Edelman. Incomplete. Fourth down.
This is what C.J. Mosley brings to the table. His physical attributes resulting in incredible sideline-to-sideline speed, amazing change-of-direction ability, and fundamentally-sound tackling are only a fraction of the total package. He’s the defensive quarterback Gregg Wiliams and the Jets desperately required.
Sideline-To-Sideline Speed, Block Shedding
Mosley showcases his ridiculous sideline-to-sideline speed in his first example. Making it more impressive is the idea he needed to first respect the jet-sweep fake and then avoid the second-level block attempt.
Notice the angle he takes after finding himself behind the play.
An average human being who plays inside linebacker would have to tip his cap and take a steeper angle. Mosley is no average human being. His speed allows him to take the flattest angle possible en route to the athletic tackle.
If Mosley doesn’t make the tackle, Mark Ingram literally has days to run down the sideline.
On the next example, the Los Angeles Chargers attempt to cut Mosley.
No chance. It’s tough to block the guy in the trenches. It’s impossible to do so in space.
Tackling, Run Defense
Mosley’s most gifted physical attribute is his change-of-direction. The man can stop on a dime anywhere on the field. His read-and-react capabilities are ridiculous.
On the following play, he maintains an excellent inside-out technique on the stretch yet stops immediately and adjusts to the running back cut.
Once he makes first contact, the ballcarrier rarely picks up extra hards. Despite his smaller frame at the position, his hit power is superb.
Check out his hit power on the following play. It’s an A-gap stuff of the highest degree.
Some of it is his raw strength. Most of it is technique.
His fundamental play when targeting, breaking down, and wrapping up the ballcarrier can only be described as phenomenal.
Not everything results in a box score stat. In fact, most of Mosley’s brilliance comes as a teammate—stuff the average fan doesn’t catch at first glance.
The example showcases Mosley’s understanding of team defense. He knows his unit was put in a bad spot with a possible gaping hole. Instead of attempting to play Superman, he fills hard and stands up the bigger lineman which ensures less space for the back to operate.
Without his strong fill in taking on the block and not giving an inch, the back would have enjoyed much more room to operate in a one-on-one situation against the safety.
Pass Defense, Play Recognition
While Mosley isn’t a superior pass-coverage backer, he’s certainly no slouch. He understands and feels the game to a level that cannot be coached.
The following play-action didn’t fool the Jets stud linebacker in the least. In fact, he recognized play-action before the fake was even carried out.
Notice how he did it. Any defender knows that the offensive line is the key in reading plays, especially the guards. On this one, the center gives away the pass-protection move that allows Mosley to read it and drop back only to take away the cross.
Diagnosing screens is another strength of Mosley’s. On this particular example, he reads it prior to any blocker breaking for the screen and then takes a 1-on-4 situation out wide.
Notice the patience in the 1-on-4 situation. If he plays hero ball, the offense picks up a huge chunk. Knowing he’s outnumbered, he stands the blocker up and waits for the troops to rally.
Finally, the lone true pass defense example is a dandy. Lined up on the side of a bunch, Mosley allows the seam to scream pass him, the shallow cross to pass on to his surrounding defender, and the flat to head to the flat.
He’s already out of his break and in a full spring to the fourth read—the back out of the backfield—before Drew Brees has even begun his throwing motion.
C.J. Mosley isn’t just the inside linebacker the New York Jets needed, he’s the defensive quarterback that’s been required.