Last Season in Review
Entering the 2016 season, the Jets defensive line was considered one of the best in the NFL, and they flexed their muscles early. In Week 1 against the Bengals, the unit accounted for six sacks.
Following the fast start, the production cooled off. Despite a 12-sack difference between 2015 and 2016 (27 this year to 39 last year), head coach Todd Bowles believes the line played well and the numbers in the box score weren't indicative of performance.
"It wasn't like last year," Bowles said. "Mo [Wilkerson] battled through some things and played. Sheldon [Richardson] played hard. The production wasn't there, but the effort was there and they made other people better. So I have no problem with the way they played."
One player who blossomed was second-year Pro Bowler Leonard Williams. The 2015 sixth overall pick led the Jets with seven sacks and 25 QBH in his sophomore campaign. The Big Cat also tied for second in tackles (86) and TFL (11).
"He made great strides as far as reading blocks and a leadership standpoint," Bowles said. "Leonard is really coming into his own and really stepping out front and being more of a leader there. I look forward to that being more so next year, but Leonard has made great strides for us."
The Green & White finished No. 11 in rush defense and T4 in average per attempt, yielding 98.8 yards per game and 3.7 yards per rush.
Top Photos of the Jets D-Line During the 2016 Season
With only one player scheduled to be a free agent (Brandin Bryant), the DL is shaping up to be very similar in 2017.
Wilkerson (ankle) and Steve McLendon (hamstring) are expected to come back fully healthy. Mo said his ankle will not require surgery and he is "looking forward to the offseason and continuing to get healthy." Paired up with Williams and Richardson, the defensive line could once again be considered the best unit on the team and debatably the league.
Something to keep an eye on is the performance of a pair rookies whose seasons were cut short due to injury — Lawrence Thomas and Julien Obioha. Thomas made the team as an UDFA out of Michigan State and started in Week 1 before being placed on IR Sep. 29. The 6'4", 280-pound Obioha had two takeaways in the first 10 days of training camp before injuring his shoulder and being placed on IR Aug. 10.