Jets DL Look Ahead | Still Work to Do, but What a Rush in '22

Young Yet Experienced Group Benefited from Rotation, Put Up Big Numbers in the QB Pressure Department

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Table inside Article
Jets PlayerExp in '23GP-GS-DNP-IAD-ST-Total Snaps
Quinnen Williams5th16-16-0-1690-74—764
Carl Lawson (edge)7th17-17-0-0663-18—681
John Frankin-Myers (edge)6th17-17-0-0643-14—657
Sheldon Rankins8th15-15-0-2558-31—589
Nathan Shepherd6th17-3-0-0417-136—553
Micheal Clemons (edge)2nd16-0-0-1311-235—546
Solomon Thomas7th17-0-0-0375-71—446
Jermaine Johnson (edge)2nd14-0-0-3312-109—421
Bryce Huff (edge)4th14-0-0-3191-161—352
Jacob Martin6th8-0-0-0153-121—274
Vinny Curry12th11-0-0-1185-55—240
Tanzel Smart5th3-0-0-049-0—49
Bradlee Anae3rd0-0-0-10-0—0

No Longer with Team: Martin (trade to DEN)

Signed Reserve/Future Contract: Smart, Marquiss Spencer

POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS IN '23

Unrestricted: Rankins, Shepherd, Thomas, Curry

Restricted: Huff

'23: More, More, More
It's been said before but the Jets for the first time in a while came after opposing passing offenses with a top NFL pass rush. And with the big three of Quinnen Williams (career and team highs of 12 sacks and 28 QB hits), Carl Lawson (seven sacks, 24 QBH) and John Franklin-Myers (five sacks, career-high 19 QBH) all expected back along with the likes of Bryce Huff (3.5 sacks, with his sack for every 54.6 defensive snaps leading the defense, not just the line) and now second-year players Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons, plus the young secondary playing its role in QB pressures, another excellent year of D-line play could be in the offing.

HC Robert Saleh, DC Jeff Ulbrich and DL coach Aaron Whitecotton know how to rotate a DL, getting nine or 10 players defensive snaps every game. That helped optimize line leader Quinnen Williams' contributions, as he translated his tame-sounding but hard-working 690 D-snaps into the most sacks and hits by a Jets defender in almost two decades (along with Muhammad Wilkerson, who also had 12 sacks and 28 QBH in 2015).

And it gave valuable playtime to Huff, Johnson and Clemons as they vie for greater exposure in the coming season. "it's a benefit to our rotation that we have on our D-line," Ulbrich said. "A lot of guys play, a lot of guys have game experience."

With Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd and Solomon Thomas eligible to enter free agency, the Jets may be in the market for interior players alongside "Q". And the run defense, which of course falls on all players on defense and in particular the front seven, did improve from 29th in the first year of the Saleh/Ulbrich scheme to a 16th-place tie, but more work remains to be done against opponents' ground games.

See the top images of Jets D-Line during the 2022 season.

'22: Quick Look Back
The pass rush highlights were many. Williams had a pair of two-sack games and QB hits in 12 consecutive games. Lawson notched seven QB hits on Miami's Skylar Thompson in Game 5 — the most by an NFL defender in a game in the last four seasons. Josh Allen was sacked five times, stripped twice and threw two picks in the Week 9 home win over the Bills. One of the Jets' successes vs. the Patriots was to sack Mac Jones 12 times (10 of them by D-linemen) — their second-most sacks of an opposing QB in one season since 1970 (Drew Bledsoe went down 13 times in 2000).

The run defense wasn't quite as robust after rising to ninth in the NFL in yards/game and sixth in yards/carry when they held the Patriots to 99 yards at New England. They slumped in the final seven games and finished the year allowing Seattle and Miami to average 180 yards at 5.1 per carry and settled at a tie for 16th per game and 10th per carry for the season. Williams, as with his pass rush measurables, led the DL with 40 run-stop tackles.

DL Trivia
Not only the sack but the strip sack returned to the Jets' pass rush arsenal. In particular, all six strips this past season were executed by D-linemen, led by Quinnen's two, vs. Aaron Rodgers and Trevor Lawrence. That's the most strip sacks by Jets D-linemen in the last 17 seasons, or since the last year of the tagteam of John Abraham and Shaun Ellis in 2005. That season "Abe" had six strips all by himself and the Jets DL had eight.

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