Last week, the Jets announced that they had signed linebacker Micah Awe to a futures contract. We're going to take a look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 24-year old Awe is listed at 6'0" and 220 pounds and was born in Nigeria. He was an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2016. After spending camp and preseason with the Bucs, he did not make their roster and then played for CFL's BC Lions last season, where he recorded 54 tackles.
Awe saw his production increase in each of his four years at Texas Tech, where he played his first year as a defensive back before moving to the linebacker position. In his final season, he led the Big XII with 126 tackles and had a career-high 6.5 tackles for loss.
He also had six passes defensed, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his college career.
After going undrafted, Awe attended the Bucs rookie mini-camp and earned a contract. In four preseason games, he had six tackles and a quarterback hit but did not make the team.
Awe spent 2017 playing in the CFL with the BC Lions. He won a starting role and racked up 54 tackles and a forced fumble. Awe was released from his CFL contract last week so that the Jets could sign him.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Awe brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Awe measured just 5'11" and 216 at his pro day so he is somewhat undersized to play linebacker at the NFL level.
He ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at his pro day and had an underwhelming 16 bench press reps and a 4.27 short shuttle time. However, his vertical jump (39"), broad jump (127") and three-cone drill (7.03) were all excellent.
Awe's role in college was similar to Darron Lee's at Ohio State in that he would sometimes line up between the tackles, but when the opposing team operated out of the spread he would line up outside the tackle halfway towards the inside slot receiver.
Awe seems to read and recognize plays well and without hesitation. That's mostly based on his college film too, although he admits he improved a lot while in Canada.
One thing he does impressively that many young players don't do is to anticipate blocks. There are a lot of plays on his highlight reel where he'll take on a block or avoid one, as he does here:
Awe is sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker who works hard to chase down plays in pursuit. He's a productive tackler who closes well on the ball-carrier.
He has a reputation as a big hitter, which he displays on this play, meeting the runner and stopping him in his tracks in the hole:
Awe isn't matched up directly in man-to-man coverage all that often, mostly just playing underneath and reacting to short passes, which he does well.
He hasn't recorded any interceptions in college, preseason or CFL action, but here was one he had in a spring scrimmage:
Special teams could be where Awe makes his mark at the NFL level. He had some production on coverage units while at Texas Tech, but excelled in the CFL with 16 tackles last season.
As noted, Awe is a big hitter but can also deliver some good form tackles with solid technique. Despite this, he had one of the highest missed tackle totals in the nation in 2015. Of course, he was very productive as well, so his tackle efficiency wasn't that bad, but it's still something he needed to clean up.
Here was a play where he was the first of three Texas Tech players to miss a tackle on Aaron Jones:
Awe didn't blitz very often but when he did, his explosiveness and closing speed were useful assets.
Here was a play where he was unblocked off the edge and laid a huge hit on Carson Wentz, who suffered fractured ribs on the play:
As noted, Awe is a big hitter and can take on blockers. His size may be a problem if he wants to play in the box at the NFL level, although that's where his anticipatory skills will help him. He's probably better off in space though, which is why special teams might be where he makes his mark, at least initially.
As noted, Awe played a similar role to Lee in college, so Awe may need to make a similar adjustment to play in the NFL, especially if he's going to line up in the box. With his size, he might fit better as a hybrid linebacker/safety type.
Awe is regarded as a good leader with a strong work ethic. He's extremely smart and his coaches have praised how coachable he is.
He received criticism - and the maximum fine, but no suspension - for an illegal hit to the back of Jerome Messam's helmet in a CFL game. Awe led with the crown of his helmet on the hit, which was widely condemned.
From watching his film the only mental error he had was on a play where he was caught on a costly too-many-men-on-the-field penalty, as he tried to limp off the field. He could have just gone down injured to stop the game.
Other than the above-mentioned play, there don't seem to have been many injuries for Awe in college or the pros. He played 35 games in his last three seasons in college.
While Awe claims to have made dramatic improvements at the linebacker position while in Canada, realistically his best chance of making an NFL roster will be to contribute as a special teamer.
That said, he does have some explosiveness and displays good instincts, while could lead to him also being useful if employed in a situational role.
In the modern NFL, a player his size is not too small to play in the box, but his experience as a defensive back is useful too and that versatility will help his chances.