Jets D-Line Look Ahead: Much Work to Do, Good Base to Do It With

Carl Lawson Hopes to Roar Back and Rejoin Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers & Rest of the DL

Table inside Article
Jets PlayerGP-GS-DNP-IADSnaps-STSnaps
John Franklin-Myers16-16-0-0716-23
Sheldon Rankins16-3-0-1641-96
Quinnen Williams15-15-0-0613-72
Folorunso Fatukasi15-15-0-0558-63
Shaq Lawson14-7-0-1534-48
Nathan Shepherd17-1-0-0495-138
Bryce Huff9-7-0-1337-78
Ronnie Blair8-3-0-1313-42
Kyle Phillips7-1-0-0233-26
Tim Ward11-0-0-6191-61
Jonathan Marshall4-0-0-1276-1
Jabari Zuniga3-0-0-153-0
Freedom Akinmoladun1-0-0-021-0
Hamilcar Rashed1-0-0-016-2

Finished on Injured Reserve/NFI: Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Huff
Finished on Practice Squad: Tanzel Smart
No Longer on the Roster: S.Lawson, Curry, Blair, Akinmoladun
Reserve/Future Signings: Rashed, Smart, Bradlee Anae

Potential Free Agents in 2022
Unrestricted: Fatukasi, Shepherd
Restricted: Phillips
Exclusive Rights: Ward

'22: Second-Year Strides under Saleh?
Not to heap too much pressure on head coach Robert Saleh and D-coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, but year two is when Saleh's SF defense started to make its move up the NFL's rankings. In Saleh's first year as DC in 2017, the 49ers were 24th overall, 22nd against the run, 22nd vs. the pass and 25th in points. In 2018, the Niners improved to 13-14-11-28 and the next year were a top unit at 2-17-1-8. And a lot of that improvement began up front.

For the Jets, that would mean Carl Lawson is a full-go from his preseason Achilles tendon injury and a full season instead of a half from Bryce Huff. Quinnen Williams in his fourth Jets season needs and wants to show a leap up in class. John Franklin-Myers returns also, but if Foley Fatukasi and/or Nate Shepherd depart as UFAs, they will need to be replaced with a prime acquisition through free agency or the draft.

And in general the front four needs to follow Williams' advice and vision for '22: "This is another offseason to make sure we brush up on all our techniques and all the things the coaches asked us to do this year that we did wrong, and learn from our mistakes. So when next year comes around, it'll be the second year and everybody in the same positions and stuff like that, and I think it'll be much better."

See the best images of Jets D-Line during the 2021 season.

'21: Lawson Takeoff Delayed

Once the Jets hit the summer, Lawson started to show what he was bringing to the table as the top unrestricted free agency signing. "I'm a big Carl fan," Saleh said early in training camp. "He goes out there and he just wins. And he's an absolute problem for everyone." Then during a joint practice with the Packers on Aug. 19, Lawson was gone for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon. It would be overkill to say Lawson's injury ruined the defense's season ahead, but no question the Jets' D-line fortunes swung high and low after that major setback, with injuries to Kyle Phillips and, in October, to starter Huff, plus Williams' late shoulder issue.

There were some solid individual highlights. Williams and Franklin-Myers shared the sack lead with six each, with Q getting Pro Bowl third-alternate recognition and JFM signing a contract extension and easily leading the defense in QB hurries for the second straight year. And Fatukasi unofficially topped the DL with fiery pregame talks and 10.5 tackles for loss/no gain. But as a unit, the DL was the first line of defense that was creased too often, with the defense finishing 29th in the NFL in rush yards yielded/game, 24th in yards/carry, 24th in sacks/pass attempt, 32nd in first downs allowed and 27th in third-down conversion rate allowed. Lots to work on but a good base to do it with.

DL Trivia

With the shift in schemes from a 3-4 front to a 4-3, the Jets' defensive linemen saw an uptick in their collective sack total. They recorded 21 of the Jets' 31 sacks in 2021, the most total sacks by the DL since 2015 (21.5), and the line's 68% of the team's sacks was its largest share since the 2016 line had 70% of that season's sacks (19 of 27).


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