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Jets Dodge T.J. Watt, But Still Must Brace For Alex Highsmith

T.J. Watt might be out, but New York still has to deal with Alex Highsmith on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The Jets got lucky that Steelers' T.J. Watt will be out this for the game at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh. 

Well ... sort of. 

While the NFL's leading sack producer from a season removed is still nursing an injury, now the Jets have to worry about Pittsburgh's team leader in sacks this season, linebacker Alex Highsmith. 

He's posted 4.5 sacks in just three games, and he's got to be licking his chops watching what's going on with the Jets' situation at left tackle. 

I went back and watched Pittsburgh's games against CIN (9/11), NE (9/18) and CLV (9/22), and let me tell you something...

Highsmith is a handful. 

He doesn't get the press that Watt gets, but this elite level pass rusher can flat out bring it too. 

That's bad news for New York, and that's really bad news for Jets' quarterback Zach Wilson who will be back under center this Sunday.

With George Fant now on injured reserve, journeyman Conor McDermott will likely start.

Highsmith does a masterful job setting up tackles with an array of pass rush moves. He uses those moves to test who he's going up against, until he finds his way to the QB.

If you don't believe me, ask the Bengals. 

Highsmith recorded three sacks and a forced fumble in that game, when he leveled Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow from the blindside. 

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Highsmith shows good power initially at the power of attack. This allows him to create enough separation from the tackle that he can then race through the backdoor and get into the pocket. He also has a lightning fast trademark spin back to the inside, when he is actually able to accelerate while spinning before striking. 

Occasionally, he switches it up and drops into pass coverage as a way of keeping everyone guessing what's coming next. 

Sometimes, it looks like he's dropping into coverage, but he's really not. Instead, he drops back before racing towards the QB's face unaccounted for and unblocked. 

Highsmith likes to stunt inside and he's good for a couple pure power bullrushes per game, when he disrupts the pocket by driving the tackle right back into the QB. 

Now that Watt is out, Highsmith will also flip to the other side and take over that role testing the opponent's right tackle too.

He's not nearly as interested in defending the run as he is getting to the QB, but once in a while he will either crash in and make a jarring tackle or spear in and blow up a running back for good measure. 

These are not the things I say he can do. These are the things the game film says he does. All I do is write it down. 

New York needs to take a page out of Cleveland's playbook. In that recent game, the Browns used a running back or a tight end to double team and chip Highsmith, which slowed him down just enough, before they released into their pass routes. 

After watching what Trey Hendrickson just did to the Jets left tackles...

The Jets better game plan to stop Highsmith and they better get to know his name, before it's too late. 


Follow Daniel Kelly on Twitter (@danielkellybook). Be sure to bookmark Jets Country and check back daily for news, analysis and more.