Has C.J. Mosley been more disappointing than given credit for?
After signing a five-year, $85 million contract ($51 million guaranteed) with the Jets in 2019, Mosley only played two games in his first season due to injury woes before opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. He came back at full health in 2021, dropping weight and adding speed to prepare for his integral role in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich‘s 4-3 defense.
Hopes were high for Mosley. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Ravens and looked dominant in his only fully-healthy game as a Jet in 2019. Plus, his impact has always been based upon intelligence and fundamentals rather than athleticism, so he seemed to have a strong chance of maintaining his elite play even as he aged and battled injuries.
Not to mention, Saleh and Ulbrich are notorious linebacker gurus who have overseen the emergence of star linebackers like Fred Warner (Saleh), Eric Kendricks (Ulbrich), and Deion Jones (Ulbrich). It felt like Mosley would be the next talented player to benefit from Saleh and Ulbrich’s coaching, especially playing in a defensive scheme that gives linebackers plenty of opportunities to roam the field and make plays.
We’re now 12 games into the season. Has Mosley had the comeback season that fans hoped to see?
Evaluating C.J. Mosley’s 2021 season thus far
Before getting into Mosley’s individual play, we have to take into account the performance of the Jets defense as a whole.
The Jets are 3-9 and indisputably own the NFL’s worst defense. The unit ranks last in yards allowed per game (396.8), points allowed per game (30.6), defensive DVOA (+16.4%), and defensive EPA (-148.38).
Most of the blame for those issues has been attributed to the Jets’ chronic injury woes and resulting lack of talent. New York has had to rely on a bevy of rookies and scrap-heap pickups due to the extended absences of intended core pieces like Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Bryce Huff, Lamarcus Joyner, and Marcus Maye.
Certainly, a lack of talent – largely due to injury – is the main issue with this unit. That lack of talent has made Mosley’s job harder, as he has had to cover up for the struggles of inconsistent players around him such as Quincy Williams, Jarrad Davis, Del’Shawn Phillips, and many others.
But should Mosley be completely let off the hook?
The answer is no, he shouldn’t.
Mosley is definitely playing a role in the Jets’ underwhelming defensive production. He is not performing up to his usual standards in a few different areas.
Firstly, Mosley is missing far more tackles than he used to.
From 2017-19, Mosley racked up 246 tackles while missing only 16. That is a miss rate of 6.1%, which is great. For reference, the 2020 league average for linebackers was 10.7%.
In 2021, Mosley has already missed 14 tackles. Making 101 tackles, he has a below-average miss rate of 12.2% – double his rate from 2017-19.
Mosley missed 16 tackles over 33 games from 2017-19, only 0.484 per game. He has missed 14 over 11 games this season, way up to 1.272 per game. That’s a 163% increase.
As of the conclusion of Week 13, Mosley’s total of 14 missed tackles is tied for seventh-most among linebackers. He is also tied for 10th in total tackles, so his miss total is far from abysmal relative to the strong number of plays he makes, but it certainly is not ideal, nor is it close to his previous elite standards.
Mosley’s miss rate ranks 37th out of 60 qualified linebackers this season. Again, that’s not terrible, but it’s not the level of play that got Mosley to four Pro Bowls.
Coverage is another area where Mosley is falling off.
Mosley has already been credited with allowing four touchdown passes into his coverage this year, which is tied for the third-most among linebackers. He gave up only six touchdowns over 63 games from 2015-19.
Check out Mosley’s 2021 coverage numbers compared to his production from 2015-19:
- Touchdowns allowed: 4 over 11 games in 2021 (5.8 per 16 games), 6 over 63 games from 2015-19 (1.5 per 16 games)
- Passes defended: 2 over 11 games in 2021 (2.9 per 16 games), 29 over 63 games from 2015-19 (7.4 per 16 games)
- Interceptions: 0 over 11 games in 2021, 8 over 63 games from 2015-19 (2.0 per 16 games)
- Passer rating allowed: 122.4 in 2021, 90.5 from 2015-19
The Jets rank second-worst in the NFL (ahead of only the Seahawks) with 126.8 receiving yards per game allowed to running backs and tight ends. Mosley is playing a sizable role in that. We cannot continue to pin all of the blame on everyone else.
Mosley is declining in the run game, too. So far, he has recorded 22 run stops over 303 snaps against the run, a rate of 7.4% that ranks 26th out of 61 qualified linebackers. That’s solid, but yet again, it’s not up to Mosley’s standards. Take a look at his career run-stop rates:
- 2021: 7.4% (26th of 61)
- 2018: 10.9% (5th of 67)
- 2017: 9.3% (14th of 66)
- 2016: 8.8% (27th of 63)
- 2015: 10.1% (17th of 64)
Last but not least, Mosley is more penalty-prone than usual. He’s already been called for three penalties this year, the same number he was called for over 33 games from 2017-19.
Once again, that is by no means atrocious, but it is not who C.J. Mosley used to be – and the Jets are paying him to be the C.J. Mosley of old.
Mosley has a cap hit of $7.5 million this season, which ranks 10th among linebackers. Next year, his cap hit will jump to a whopping $17.5 million, which is currently set to rank fourth-highest. And New York is on the hook for that number – cutting Mosley would result in the team taking on $20.5 million in dead money while losing $3 million in immediate cap space.
The Jets could trade Mosley and absorb only $4.5 million in dead money while freeing $13 million in cap space, but it’s hard to imagine any team will want to trade for a declining 30-year-old Mosley at his cost.
Mosley is going to be a Jet next year, and he will be getting paid to be a great Jet. Right now, he’s just a fine one.
Reading the vibe of the Jets fanbase, it feels like Mosley’s 2021 season was declared a surefire success after a few strong games early in the season, and that fans have refrained from evaluating Mosley since then.
The fact of the matter is that Mosley has cooled off after a fairly solid start. He is not putting together the comeback story that everyone hoped for.
Mosley has not been a “bad” linebacker by any means. He also deserves some slack considering he is in a tough situation as the captain and play-caller of a young defense that has been throwing out new faces every single week.
With that being said, Mosley has been objectively average/below-average despite being paid to be a superstar.
It’s time to start throwing a little bit of blame in Mosley’s direction. The Jets need a lot more from him.
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