Jets’ Defensive Line Can Develop Into A New “Sack Exchange’ This Fall
By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Questions have lingered about the Jets’ offense, but their defense already is being recognized.
There appears to be a consensus that Gang Green has the potential to be a league top-10 unit this season. The focus this spring has been placed on their defensive line.
Does their defensive line have the pieces to form the “Sack Exchange” of 2021? They do have the bodies to form a chemistry, bit they will need the cards to fall in their favor.
The key words are promise and possibility.
New head coach Robert Saleh was a defensive architect in San Francisco, and he does have a challenge ahead.
His defensive line can set the tone for the rest of the unit that also will need to jell.
Saleh and his defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will make the Jets’ D-line and the entire unit the team’s calling card. They did lose rising star Tarell Basham to Dallas as a free agent.
The trade rumors involving defensive tackle Quinnen Williams have been squelched, and Williams’ meteoric rise should lead him to an All-Pro season. He had a team-high seven of the team’s 31 sacks as well as 39 hurries last season.
GM Joe Douglas made the D-line one of his offseason priorities, and he added Bengals’ lineman Carl Lawson and Saints’ defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.
The 25-year-old Lawson was inked to a three-year, $45 million deal, and he is a rising star. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the eighth best at his position. Lawson looked good in spring and he’ll be unleasehed.
Rankins was a former No. 1 pick in 2018, and his career has been derailed by injuries. Douglas took a flyer on him, but Jenkins could be a solution.
Kyle Phillips had a breakout season last year, and Folorunso Fatukasi was one of the league’s top run-stoppers.
John Franklin-Myers was picked up off waivers from the Rams in 2019, and he was a highly regarded fourth-round pick. Franklin-Myers was impressive with 51 hurries last season, and is expected to reach the next level.
Douglas added ex-Eagle Vinny Curry, who was instrumental in his former team’s Super Bowl run. But, like Jenkins, his productivity has dropped in recent years. The 33-year-old Curry should have something left in the tank, and he showed some flash in the spring. He should be in the regular rotation.
Nathan Shepherd was labeled as a projects as a third-round pick in 2018, and he has developed. Sixth-round pick Jonathan Marshall is a big body and can be a contributor.
The pieces are in place, and the question will be if Saleh and Ulbrich can maneuver them properly.
Pro Football Focus had the Jets’ D-Line ranked 18th last year. They have the capability to be better and a new “Sack Exchange,” but Saleh and Ulbrich will need to nurture them along.