Jeremiah George is headed to New York to join the Jets for preseason camp. On first blush the Jets' 3-4 scheme isn't one that George readily fits in but Rex Ryan is known for creative defensive formations and the skill set George brings may very well be suited to what Ryan is potentially cooking up.
George's 5'11" frame isn't going to hold up to the rigors of an NFL defense on the inside and he's not tall enough to be a rush linebacker on the outside. However, his speed combined with his natural football instincts should allow him to see the field in pass rushing situations and on special teams.
George's speed is above average for a linebacker of his size. His 4.91 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine wasn't anything special but he shows solid explosiveness with his 33 inch vertical jump and 116 inch broad jump. At the end of the day it's production that matters and George had it in spades once he became a starter in 2012.
George amassed 87 tackles in 2012 when playing between NFL linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. After Knott was shut down following the Baylor game George took his game to another level with double digit tackles in three of the final five games. That included a 17 tackle (10 solo) performance against Oklahoma.
In 2013 George played with two new starting linebackers and an inexperienced line while still producing 133 tackles (83 solo), 3.5 sacks
4 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. George is perhaps most well known nationally for this fumble that wasn't against Texas:
The play perfectly encapsulates what's so good about George. He has a nose for the football, is aggressive with the ball carrier, and isn't afraid to mix it up in the trenches. His instincts drive a lot of this ability as he consistently makes quick decisions at the snap of the ball and more often than not finds himself at the point of attack only a few steps later. Here he is against Iowa this past season bursting through the line and wrapping up the much bigger Mark Weisman:
George was the most dangerous man on the field, and despite Iowa knowing this they failed to pick him up in their zone blocking. This wasn't the only time during the game that it happened either:
Here George patiently reads Iowa's quarterback Jake Rudock and bursts through a seam in the line to force an errant throw to the sidelines. George is average in pass defense but understands his assignments over the middle and has the athleticism to make plays when needed. Here he is this year against Texas Tech making a key interception late in the game:
It's said that often your greatest strength is your greatest weakness and George is a great example of this. His speed and aggressiveness had led him to make many a play in the backfield but he also frequently relies too much on his speed and strength to create plays. Here he is again against Iowa, and this time missing a tackle on Mark Weisman:
George gets caught slightly in the wash created by the line, but makes a critical mistake in attempting to tackle Weisman high. Not only is this a fundamentally bad tackle, but Weisman outweighed George by a solid 30 pounds at the time and an attempt at his lower body would have at least slowed him down enough to let the rest of the defense catch up.
Aside from George relying too much on his God given talents he also has the weakness that is discussed relentlessly this time of year: his height. At only 5'11" it's tough for George to take on much bigger linemen and he has even occasionally struggled with tight ends that have a noticeable height advantage on him. He makes up for this with sheer strength, but in the NFL nearly everyone will be as strong as him.
George faced very few man-to-man situations in college and instead was tasked with patrolling the middle of the field. He was quite capable of this, but if there's one area where his instincts were not clear it was this. Unlike predecessor A.J. Klein, George rarely gambled in passing situations and was content to read the quarterback and showed little anticipation based on the play call. He was still successful in many pass break ups, but at the next level a step late is the difference between a break up and a potential touchdown. A lot of this will come down to coaching, and it's entirely possible George was instructed to stay home more than normal given the weaknesses at the rest of the linebacker position in 2013.
There probably isn't a better place for George to go than to play for one of the Ryan brothers. Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense is really a 3-4 in name, and he frequently changes the personnel based on the offense he's facing and to create confusion up front.
Thinking back to a few years ago when the Jets and their defense was the "hot thing" in the NFL. They made a living on varying pre-snap looks that kept offenses off guard. Prepare for a base 3-4 on week? Get a 3-3-5 the next. Ryan even brings in 4-6 principles made famous by his father Buddy.
Not only does George provide some depth with his physicality, but that speed brings a dimension in passing situations. George is going to be a special teams superstar from day one, but fans may see him contributing more on Sundays sooner rather than later in this defense.