Over the last few weeks, we've been taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets' offseason additions. We continue today with a look at linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.
The 26-year old Pierre-Louis is 6'0" and 230 pounds and was a fourth round pick out of Kentucky in 2014. He spent his first three seasons with the Seahawks, where he was mostly a special teamer, although he did make one start. He was traded to the Chiefs before last season, where he saw more time on defense and racked up a career-high 41 tackles, along with two passes defensed.
Pierre-Louis was a four-year starter at Boston College, where he racked up over 350 tackles. In his final year, he posted career highs in tackles (108), tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (six) as he was voted to the all-ACC first team.
After posting some incredible numbers at the combine, Pierre-Louis was predictably selected by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.
As a rookie, Pierre-Louis had some injuries that limited him to just seven games. He played mostly on special teams, recording 13 tackles and a fumble recovery.
In his second season, Pierre-Louis made his first career start, but struggled in a close game against the Panthers, although he was credited with 11 tackles. However, he didn't play much on defense the rest of the way. He ended the season with 18 tackles and a pass defensed.
After his third season which again saw him mostly used on special teams, the Seahawks traded him to the Chiefs for another linebacker, DJ Alexander.
Pierre-Louis saw more action on defense in his one year with the Chiefs than he had in his first three seasons combined and racked up 41 tackles and two passes defensed. He also had five tackles and a forced fumble in their playoff loss to the Titans.
An offseason arrest clouded Pierre-Louis' future but he signed a two-year deal with the Jets in free agency.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Pierre-Louis brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Pierre-Louis is something of a legend in the analytics community based on his sensational performance at the 2014 scouting combine:
To provide some context for just how spectacular those numbers are, they even stack up if you compare him to defensive backs:
Pierre-Louis settled into a role as one of the two inside linebackers in the Chiefs 3-4 defense last season. While he came off the bench, Pierre-Louis saw plenty of action, mostly rotating with Reggie Ragland. As a general rule, Ragland would play on running downs, while Pierre-Louis was employed more in coverage situations.
In Seattle, Pierre-Louis usually played the strongside role, which means he was sometimes lined up on the edge and at the line of scrimmage or matched up with someone in the slot. In college, he saw time as an edge rusher.
When Pierre-Louis arrived in Kansas City both special teams coach Dave Toub and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton specifically praised his instincts. However, a lack of natural instincts had been cited as a reason why he didn't see more time in Seattle.
A review of his film, especially while in Seattle, shows examples of missed assignments in zone coverage and occasionally overrunning plays or taking bad angles. He was also susceptible to play action fakes when in college.
Here's a mistake from last year from Pierre-Louis (#57), who anticipates the receiver screen and tries to get ahead of his blocker to prevent the receiver getting outside. Unfortunately, it's more of a tunnel screen and this leads to Pierre-Louis getting caught on the perimeter:
That's something of a pattern with Pierre-Louis. As you'll see on some of the other gifs with this article, he can take himself out of a play by trying to anticipate and finding himself sealed off.
However, there are also plenty of examples of him making a decisive read and using his athleticism to get to the ball quickly and make a stop.
Although he was often not in the game for obvious run defense situations, Pierre-Louis can make contributions against the run. He has a good motor and his athleticism gives him range in pursuit. He's not been particularly productive when he has played against the run though.
One issue, which ties in to the earlier comments about making reads, is that he can be blocked out of plays from time to time. He might be more effective if he could play with more discipline and not try to do too much.
On this play, he anticipates the run over the right side of the offensive line and, by the time he realizes the run is going up the middle, he's caught up in traffic and can't get back to the ball carrier:
Here's an example of what was discussed earlier, as he tries to get the jump on the blocker at the second level and then when the runner cuts back, Pierre-Louis is easily sealed off:
Pierre-Louis has been a very reliable tackler at the NFL level. He's never missed more than two tackles in a season as he uses good form and technique and makes use of his excellent length to finish effectively.
Here's a spectacular play which showcases his athleticism as he skips over a cut block attempt and drags the runner down in space:
Pierre-Louis' abilities in pursuit are on display here as he chases the ball carrier to the outside and then rips the ball away in the tackle:
Pierre-Louis looks comfortable dropping into coverage as he has fluid hips and good technique for a linebacker.
His coverage numbers at the NFL level have not been great, although that's partly due to a couple of plays that were not entirely his fault counting against him because he was the nearest defender.
It's rare for him to give up a big play in direct coverage, but this was a disappointing misjudgement in coverage:
He hasn't intercepted a pass at the NFL level and only had one in college, although he was able to return it for a touchdown:
In zone coverage, Pierre-Louis made a couple of positional errors. On one play, he followed a receiver who was already covered out to the flat, leaving a receiver open down the seam. On another, he dropped into the flat to cut off a passing lane to the outside receiver but then showed poor awareness as the receiver ran an in-breaking route behind him to get open while Pierre-Louis was aligned too far outside. However, his quickness to the ball is an asset on short passes.
As noted, Pierre-Louis had six sacks in his senior year as he saw some pass rushing assignments off the edge. However, he hasn't been used as a pass rusher much at the NFL level.
With his explosiveness, he's useful coming up the middle on blitzes, although most of his pressure has come from being unblocked. Here's a rare occasion where he had to get past a blocker on a stunt up the middle:
Pierre-Louis had one sack cleaning up in a preseason game.
Despite being small for his position, Pierre-Louis' physicality has been an aspect of his game that has been praised.
He's a good hitter, will jam receivers at the line in coverage situations and will take on blockers.
Pierre-Louis has not committed any penalties on defense in regular season, postseason or preseason action. However, he has had plenty of penalties on special teams.
Pierre-Louis has been a decent special teams contributor with the Seahawks and Chiefs, playing on virtually every unit. He has 18 special teams tackles in his career and has also contributed as a blocker, although he has eight career penalties for holding or illegal block in the back. His only other penalty was because he was offside on a kick-off.
Here's Pierre-Louis coming up with a big play in a preseason game as he blocks the punt:
Pierre-Louis' coaches in Kansas City noted that it took him a while to get to grips with their system given how different it was to what the Seahawks used to do. Hopefully the adjustment into the Jets scheme will be easier because there should be elements of both systems with the 3-4 base in Kansas City and the 4-3 under fronts in Seattle.
Within the system, his role could perhaps see him replacing Avery Willamson on passing downs, much as he did with Ragland in Kansas City. He'll also be able to back up Darron Lee.
He has briefly been teammates with Joel Stave, Neal Sterling, Obum Gwacham and Cairo Santos from the current Jets roster.
By all accounts Pierre-Louis is a fiercely loyal teammate with a great work ethic and a competitive and determined demeanor on the field. His offseason arrest, reportedly for marijuana possession, along with minor traffic offense, was viewed as extremely out of character, but could mean he has to serve a short suspension.
In 2016, he bravely opened up about having been diagnosed with depression in 2012.
Pierre-Louis started 44 games in college, only missing three in 2011 due to injury. However, since being in the NFL he's been banged up quite a lot.
His rookie year saw him miss the first few games with a hamstring injury and then he ended up going on injured reserve at midseason when he required surgery on his shoulder. He missed two games with a hamstring injury in 2015 and three with ankle and hamstring issues in 2016.
Last year, he was listed on the injury report with illness, a quad issue, a shoulder injury and a groin problem. He missed two games.
Pierre-Louis brings undeniable athleticism and some good upside to the Jets' defense. He should fit right into a special teams role and will also be a valuable back-up with viable starting ability and perhaps even a full-time situational rotation player.
He has competition for playing time from the likes of Brandon Copeland and Neville Hewitt but performed well on a good team last year so should be capable of doing a good job if he gets the call.
Overall that group seems better equipped to back up the starters effectively than the likes of Julian Stanford and Bruce Carter were over the past few years. While Stanford actually showed some progress last year, both seem more prone to blown assignments than Pierre-Louis, so he should be a more than adequate replacement.