Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: How many sacks will the Jets in 2021?
EA: Over the previous three seasons, the Jets have amassed 105 sacks while averaging 35 QB takedowns behind the line. The total dipped in each of those campaigns: 39 (2018), 35 (2019) and 31 (2020). OLB Jordan Jenkins and DE Henry Anderson led the way in '18 with 7 sacks apiece, Jenkins paced the unit with 8 sacks in '19 and the emerging Quinnen Williams was on top of the chart in 2020 with 7 sacks. The Jets have made a seismic shift on defense in both scheme and personnel, moving to a 4-3 under HC Robert Saleh/DC Jeff Ulbrich for the first time since the Herman Edwards era. Saleh wants to create "chaos" with his line and the Jets are better equipped to get home in 2021. Carl Lawson gives the Green & White something off the edge that they haven't had in a long time in terms of explosiveness. Last season, Lawson led all NFL D-linemen with 32 QB hits. Lawson (26) is an ascending player who will benefit from the change of addresses. The Bengals ranked last in the NFL last season with 17 sacks and that had nothing to do with Lawson's performance. He is entering the perfect situation because Williams is a budding star and the Jets also added Sheldon Rankins on the interior, a potential X-factor who had 8 sacks with the Saints the last time he appeared in 16 games. The Jets are loaded on the interior (Folorunso Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd and intriguing rookie Jonathan Marshall included) and Ulbrich doesn't think there will be much of a pocket for quarterbacks to step up into in 2021. The Jets should be an improved club offensively, so that should mean more pass-rushing opportunities late in games. I'll set the floor at 41.
EG: I think the range is 35-40, which would have ranked between No. 12 and 17 in the 2020 season. The Jets clearly have talent up front with Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson among others. Now in a 4-3 defense, Williams is expected to attack and get upfield more than last season when he led the team with 7 sacks. With Williams on the interior and Lawson coming off the edge, teams will have to choose who to double team, which should free one of them for one-on-one matchups. Outside of those two, the Green & White's defensive line has Sheldon Rankins (17.5 career sacks), Folorunso Fatukasi (2 sacks in 2020), Vinny Curry (32.5 career sacks), John Franklin-Myers (3 sacks in 2020) and Nathan Shepherd (2.5 sacks in 2020), among others, who have proven to be effective players in the NFL. I think the biggest question in terms of the defense's success to take down opposing quarterbacks will be answered in their own secondary. The team has a young group with not a lot of experience. If they can hold up in the back end, I think they will succeed on the front end.
RL: I'll be optimistic and say the Jets will get to the big 4-0 in sacks, a level they last reached in 2013-14. Realistically, Robert Saleh, as defensive coordinator, had to build San Francisco's pass rush over time. In 2017, his first year by the Bay, the 49ers had only 30 sacks, before ramping up to 37 the next year and 48 in '19 — fifth-best in the NFL with an 11.8 dropbacks/sack rate that was third in the league. It would figure the Jets in their new 4-3 alignment might also need some time to get comfortable and create some devastating impact on opponents' passing games. But with the additions of Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry to Quinnen Williams on the outside and Sheldon Rankins to Folorunso Fatukasi, I could see DC Jeff Ulbrich's DL-led pass rush adding a half-sack per game to last year's 31 sacks to get to 39 or, with the addition of that 17th game to the schedule, to that semi-magic number of 40.