If the Jets want to do some defensive line marketing in the new year, they need to go only as far as to one of those irrepressible D-linemen who helped make the unit a ferocious NFL force in 2023.
"I feel like offensive lines played me differently this year," edge rusher Bryce Huff said earlier this month. "They had guards blocking on me along with a chipper and all kinds of things, so I was really having to work together with my guys on the line to make myself free as well as help them get free.
"I feel O-lines were blocking us as a defensive line differently, not just me. They knew we had dogs across the board."
Arguably the chief woofer was Huff himself. His distinctions begin with his 10 sacks, not only a career best but the best on the team and the Jets' first double-digit sacker coming off the edge since DE John Abraham's 10.5 sacks in his last season in green and white in 2005. Huff also had 21 QB hits, edging the irresistible inside force, Quinnen Williams, who had 20 QBHs. All of this on an economical 480 defensive snaps in the Jets' dogpack rotation.
But there's more to bark about from Huff's fourth season after coming to the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis following the 2020 draft. Next Gen Stats pegged him with 68 QB pressures on the season's 480 snaps, giving him a pressure every 6.8 snaps — third-best among NFL defensive linemen. And NGS measured Huff's average get-off speed (from snap to crossing the line of scrimmage) at 0.748 seconds, sixth-fastest among the league's D-linemen this season.
"I've always prided myself on having a good get-off in the pass rush — that's half the rush right there," he said. "Get-off is most important, especially when you're going against linemen that are already setting me up for speed or an edge move. When I get off the ball in the perfect moment, it's hard to beat, no matter how fast they get off the line."
Huff's series of perfect moments this season have led him and the Jets into an interesting offseason. He can become an unrestricted free agent, and his stance has been that he'd like to stick around but he's also anticipating a big payday.
"It would be cool," he said of continuing with the Jets. "But like I've said, I've got to do what's best for me and my family. I worked really hard with these guys here, this organization. Everybody's goal is to win and hopefully get paid in the process. So that's what I'm looking to do this offseason."
General manager Joe Douglas' team and Huff's representatives will be talking ahead of the mid-March start to the free agency period. Compensation will be the main discussion point but Huff's role. He has said he wants to be in a system where he's an every-down edge and not just a third-down rainmaker.
That's hard to orchestrate in a scheme that relies so heavily on its rotation system that even star DL Quinnen Williams has needed all five of his Jets seasons to build to his 71% of the D-snaps in 2023. Huff checked in at 44% of the snaps this season.
Still, late in the year, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich agreed with Huff's vision: "The more he's in this system and the more we work with him, this is a guy, I think, that has the potential to play every single down."
Whatever turns Huff's future takes, he was happy and grateful to be a part of the green dogs across the board who produced the Jets' 43 defensive line sacks, that unit's most since the '81 Sack Exchange Jets racked up 59 of the team's franchise-record 66 sacks.
"I just feel like I was able to capitalize on some opportunities I was given," he said. "All the guys made huge plays this whole season. I was just fortunate to be able to come out with 10 sacks. But every guy in the room is capable of getting that. I feel I was able to capitalize."