Eight weeks after a disastrous season debut, Harvey Langi looked new-and-improved against the Patriots on Monday night.
Back in April, I wrote about how Harvey Langi was the most dominant blocker on the Jets’ kickoff return unit in 2019. So, if you told me back then that I would be doing a breakdown on a fantastic performance by Langi during the season, I would definitely believe it. I would just think it would be about him being a prodigy at carving out holes for kick returners, not chopping down running backs in the open field as an every-down linebacker.
Yet, here we are.
Coming into the season, Langi was not primed to play much – if at all – on defense. C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson had the starting inside linebacker spots nailed down and were poised to play every down. Behind them, the Jets had Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman, and Patrick Onwuasor (there’s a name you probably forgot about long ago) as depth.
Then, linebackers began dropping like flies. Mosley opted out of the season. Williamson missed the season-opener with a hamstring injury. Hewitt and Cashman started in Buffalo, but Cashman went down with a groin injury just three snaps into the game, and it was Langi’s time to shine. The fourth-year former undrafted free agent played all 83 remaining snaps to finish out the game.
Langi definitely popped off the screen in Buffalo, but not in a good way. Being tossed into the fray early in the game, playing extended action for the first time in his four-year career (his previous career-high in snaps was 23), and also playing inside linebacker for the first time (primarily playing outside linebacker throughout his career), Langi made blatant mistakes throughout the afternoon – as you would expect for a player in those harsh circumstances.
With Williamson returning, Gregg Williams would completely remove Langi from the picture, as he played only three defensive snaps over the next seven games. Langi maintained his special teams role throughout that period, ranking second on the Jets with 156 special teams snaps from Weeks 2-8 (behind Matthias Farley‘s 168).
Following their Week 8 loss in Kansas City, the Jets traded Williamson to Pittsburgh, opening the door for Cashman to take his place. However, with Cashman still unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Langi was the next man up for the Monday Night Football battle with the Patriots.
A half-season after his rough outing in Buffalo, Langi was an omnipresent ball of energy against Cam Newton and the New England offense.
Playing 77 snaps (95% of the plays) primarily as the Jets’ weak side linebacker, Langi racked up 10 tackles, most of which were high-quality as eight of them held the ball-carrier to a gain of five yards or less and no first down. That was tied for the second-most among all players in Week 9.
As a pass-rusher, Langi blitzed 12 times and collected three pressures, and in coverage, Langi allowed only 19 yards and no first downs over 4 targets.
Langi is 28 years old, so he is no spring chicken, but who knows? With only 419 career defensive snaps throughout both the preseason and regular season since entering the league in 2017, Langi has hardly gotten a chance to develop his game. Perhaps this performance will mark the beginning of a late-career ascension for the Utah native and BYU product.
Let’s dig into the film behind Langi’s breakout game on national television, featuring flashes of smart recognition, quick burst, swift closing speed, and pristine open-field finishing.
Nothing too spectacular to kick things off, but a good finish out of zone coverage for Langi here. He breaks on a dump-off to Rex Burkhead and cuts him down for a gain of only five on first-and-10, limiting any yardage after the catch.
This play is the first of many glimpses into the impressive burst and closing speed that Langi showcased. Langi lines up at middle linebacker, and New England runs an option play out of the shotgun. Damien Harris motions to take the handoff from the strong side to the weak side, and Langi aggressively follows, trusting that Hewitt will be there to cover the middle if Newton keeps the ball. Newton gives the ball to Harris, and Langi flies into the backfield unblocked to meet him for a one-on-one in the open field. Showcasing his speed, Langi dives and trips Harris up, limiting him to one yard on first-and-10. Beautiful stop.