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Jets GM Joe Douglas Gets Edg-y with Bryce Huff's Departure, Jadeveon Clowney's Visit

Green & White D-Line Will Have Some Personnel Changes but Should Again Be a Pillar for the Defense


The Jets defensive line, if not the marquee group of the entire Green & White operation, is one of the pillars that side of the ball has been built on. But every subunit in the NFL requires attention every offseason when productive pieces break away and head for other teams and new parts are slid into place.

So it has been for the Jets' DL. Many of the questions asked of general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh at the NFL's annual meetings in Orlando this week concerned the removal of one of those sturdy parts when Bryce Hall signed as an unrestricted free agent with Philadelphia.

"Bryce was home-grown, and you appreciate the guys that put in the work, especially guys who were undrafted," Saleh said. "We can't keep them all. Empathetically, I understand the business part of that. But at the same time, I was happy with the work he put in and excited to see what he can do in his next chapter."

Douglas repeated the "you can't keep everybody" theme, but the GM fielded queries regarding the Jets' potential to smooth over the loss of one of the NFL's most productive edge rushers with a blockbuster UFA signing of their own.

Jadeveon Clowney has been a big man around many NFL campuses for a decade. The first overall pick of the 2014 draft by Houston, he has made stops with Seattle, Tennessee, Cleveland and last year with Baltimore, for which he posted a career-best-tying 9.5 sacks and applied 19 QB hits. Clowney is doing the free agency tour again, and among the teams reported to be interested in him, besides the Ravens and Panthers, are the Jets.

"Jadeveon's visit was outstanding," Douglas said of the edge/linebacker's drop-in at One Jets Drive last week. "I spent an hour just talking with him in my office and getting to know him as a person. It was a very productive visit, just him being around the building, getting to know him and having brought in a few teammates that he played with last year that all think the world of him."

Those Baltimore teammates are tackle Morgan Moses, returning to the Jets via trade, and guard John Simpson. But what may appeal more to Clowney than props from a few O-line mates is the Saleh/Jeff Ulbrich scheme. In Clowney's most impactful game for the Ravens last year, against the Titans, he was listed at LB but lined up as a three-point edge rusher and recorded two sacks and two other QB hits, one of each from each end of the line.

Still, the Clowney tour rolls on and as Douglas said, "There's no news to report. We've got a plan. If the opportunity presents itself, we're going to be ready. Not just Jadeveon but any player that we feel can come in and help us, we're going to be ready to add."

Meanwhile, not everything has changed on the Jets' edge. Jermaine Johnson returns for his third Jets season after posting 17 starts, 7.5 sacks, 25 pressures and 16 hits and gaining his first Pro Bowl berth, and Will McDonald enters his second pro campaign after registering three sacks, seven pressures and five hits on 184 defensive snaps.

Saleh is anticipating a similar year two growth spurt from McDonald as he saw last season from Johnson. "Will has got to add power to his football game,," the coach said. "He's got speed, he's got a counter move inside. But when he learns to run through somebody's face ... nobody will be able to block him."

On the other edge reside reliable, productive John Franklin-Myers and intense Micheal Clemons. On the interior, two-time Pro Bowler Quinnen Williams and the re-signed, highly respected Solomon Thomas are back, and they're joined by two new big bodies in Javon Kinlaw (6-6, 310) and Leki Fotu (6-5, 335) to help with the D's one soft spot, against the run.

"Javon's just a massive man with a lot of athleticism and raw power ... just a big, long, explosive guy," Douglas said. "Then with Fotu, they're giants with excellent athleticism, they play the game right way with a lot of passion, a lot of effort, a lot of toughness."

There are no guarantees, of course. The Jets and everyone else may not know where Clowney will play until August, and his choice might not be the Jets. Injuries could rear their ugly head.

But in general, the Jets' edge and interior D-line remain on point. Some names have changed but the unit still feels like it's at the top of its game. As Douglas said about Kinlaw but could have said about any member of his defensive front, "He's ready to go. He's excited to add to the fun.'

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