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 Neville Hewitt.
The 25-year old Hewitt is 6'2" and 235 pounds and was undrafted out of Marshall in 2015. He spent his first three seasons with the Dolphins, where he made a total of seven starts. However, he spent most of the 2017 season on their practice squad before being reactivated and playing in the final six games, recording just one tackle. Hewitt has had 109 tackles, four passes defensed, one sack and one interception in his career so far.
Hewitt was a junior college transfer at Marshall, having spent two years at Georgia Military College.
After taking a redshirt year, Hewitt recorded 85 tackles as a junior and was then named as the Conference-USA defensive player of the year as a senior, leading the conference in tackles. He also posted career-highs in tackles for loss (13), sacks (five) and passes defensed (three).
Hewitt wasn't invited to the 2015 scouting combine and was eventually picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins.
In his rookie year, Hewitt made the Dolphins roster and worked his way into the rotation, starting two games due to injury. His role increased in his second season, as he started five games and racked up 64 tackles, adding five more in the playoffs.
In 2017, however, Hewitt failed to make it through final cuts and spent the first 10 games on the practice squad. While he was activated in late November, he only played 11 defensive snaps and recorded one tackle.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Hewitt brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Hewitt has pretty good speed, as he managed to run a sub-4.7 40-yard dash at his pro day. He posted good explosiveness numbers in the jumps (37" vertical and 119" broad jump) but his three-cone drill was only average and his short shuttle was slow.
He didn't participate in the bench press due to an arm injury.
After playing as a hybrid safety in junior college, Hewitt played both inside linebacker positions in college and played a variety of roles in Miami. In his rookie year he played more as a middle linebacker but in his second year he played more as a 4-3 outside linebacker, usually on the weakside.
Hewitt will match up in the slot with receivers from time to time and has followed backs to the outside when they've motioned out wide.
In 2017, all 11 of his snaps came on passing downs, which could be a clue to his likely role if he can make the Jets roster.
Hewitt is relentless in pursuit and has been a productive tackler against the run. In college he showed some ability to take on blocks and disengage from them, keeping his head up as he does so. However, he can get caught up in traffic or blocked out of plays at times.
Here, the pulling lineman is able to seal Hewitt (#46) to the inside, causing him to lose the edge, and then blocks him to the floor:
He does have an ability to elude blockers and get in on the stop though, in addition to his ability to chase plays down from the backside or out to the edge:
Hewitt has been a productive tackler wherever he has played and shows good technique here to break down in the open field and bring down the runner:
He closes to the ball really well, but does sometimes have a tendency to come in high, which can allow ball carriers to elude him or drive him for a few extra yards. He's also at risk of being flagged because of this and he had a horse collar tackle in a game a few years ago.
Hewitt reduced his number of missed tackles from his rookie year to his second season, although he did get caught out on this play last year where he took a bad angle:
Hewitt has usually been employed in underneath coverage as most of the catches he's given up have been dump-offs and screen passes close to the line of scrimmage. He did allow a 40-yard play to Brent Celek down the seam in his rookie year, though.
As noted, he will sometimes match up in the slot, but a player such as Dez Bryant is not a good match-up for him, as you can see:
Earlier in the same game - which was actually his first career start - he had made this opportunistic interception on an athletic catch while again covering underneath:
He had one other interception overturned due to a roughing the passer call, but that was an easy one thrown right to him as he dropped off to the outside.
From the footage, Hewitt is at his best when coming downhill. If he can keep the play in front of him and pursue, that's when he looks good. He can be exploited in a read and react-type of role though.
On this play, he reacts a beat late to Martellus Bennett coming across the field and isn't able to prevent him either making the catch or getting down the sideline as a result:
Hewitt was a productive pass rusher in college with 7.5 sacks in his two seasons at Marshall. At the NFL level, he's not been used to blitz very often but has recorded one sack and a handful of pressures.
On this play, he comes unblocked on a rush up the middle and his hit leads to an interception:
Hewitt is a big hitter and will often aggressively drag his man to the ground when making a tackle. Again, he's lucky not to have attracted a flag for doing this.
Here was a big - but clean - hit as he came unblocked off the edge against the Jets in 2016:
He's constantly diving into the pile to try and get in on a tackle and prevent the runner making any further progress. This arguably pads his tackle numbers to a degree, but he is actively making an effort to bring down the runner, not just falling on a pile for effect.
In coverage, there was one play where Hewitt was targeted in man coverage on a downfield lob pass to Rob Gronkowski and he was draped all over him as the pass was incomplete. However, he was probably lucky to get away with pass interference on that one.
Hewitt is a good special teams contributor with 15 total tackles in kick coverage over his two-and-a-half seasons. Here's an example of him making a good play on kickoff coverage:
He has also played on the punt rush unit and as a blocker on the punt and kick return units.
As already mentioned Hewitt is a player who has just about managed to stay the right side of reckless to avoid being hit with many penalties on defense.
However, he's had five penalties on special teams, all of them for holding.
Hewitt hasn't had any injury issues at the NFL level, being listed as questionable twice with a hamstring injury but never missing a game while on the active roster.
However, after his first season at Marshall he had to get neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, bone spurs and a pinched nerve. Maybe the fact he made it back from that bodes well for Quincy Enunwa's recovery from what sounds like it was a similar issue.
Hewitt is a player who seems to love the game and has an infectious character. He brings great leadership and has expressed a desire to work with mentoring kids in the future.
His drive and determination are impressive, after he's had to deal with plenty of adversity. In addition to the injury, his mother ended up going to jail on drug offenses but Hewitt overcame a lot to eventually take the long road to a division one school and eventually made it into the pros.
Hewitt has played in both 4-3 and 3-4 systems and in a variety of roles, so should fit well into the Jets' system. He'd most likely be employed as a coverage linebacker on passing downs, perhaps entering the game for Avery Williamson in certain situations, but would have to compete with Kevin Pierre-Louis for that role. He could feasibly back up Darron Lee too.
Hewitt was a teammate of Jets wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow during preseason last year.
The acquisition of Hewitt sets up an interesting battle for roles and playing time in the Jets' linebacking corps.
While Lee and Williamson are certain to start, barring injury or suspension, it's likely the Jets might use their reserves situationally more than in the past and Hewitt can contribute to that mix along with the likes of Pierre-Louis and perhaps also Brandon Copeland.
It's difficult to say who will win the role. Hewitt had more success than Pierre-Louis early in his career, but Pierre-Louis' role increased last year while Hewitt didn't even make the Dolphins' roster so they may be trending in opposite directions.
Hewitt certainly brings some ability to the role, together with some strong character. In addition, he's a very close childhood friend of pending 2019 free agent and JetsFix favorite Grady Jarrett. If Hewitt sticks around, maybe he'll be able to entice Jarrett here next season if he doesn't sign an extension in the meantime.
Either way, it's another injection of youth that seems to upgrade a unit that was uninspiring last season, so it will be interesting to see how Hewitt and his colleagues respond to the challenge.