While the 2023 season didn't go the way the Jets had hoped it would, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas knows the Green & White are closer to their goal of making a playoff run than many people assume.
"As a team, we are closer than a lot of people think," Thomas said. "This team could have laid it down after four snaps this year, but after those four snaps, we sucked it up and we kept fighting. We never stopped and no matter what injury happened toward us, this team kept fighting. That's going to be overlooked because we're 7-10 and didn't make the playoffs, but this is the steppingstone for taking the next step to make that playoff run. The fact is this team kept fighting throughout the year and kept winning games and stayed together."
Thomas, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets this past March, became an integral part of the Jets rotating defensive line. He played in all 17 games and had a career-high 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 6 QB hits and 1 pass defensed. Thomas said the key to his success was his veteran experience and his teammates on the defensive line.
"Just trusting myself, getting off the ball, understanding my skill set against certain players and being a vet now understanding how to approach this game," Thomas said about the reasons why he had more production this season. "So, understanding a lot more and then just executing on it. It was there for me this year and I know there's a lot more out there for me. I just want to keep building off this and make this who I am.
"I had a really good offseason last year and then re-joining this defense around the guys that I've been around. We had a good flow and I was able to really play the ball that I can play. I feel like I'm just starting and I have a lot better ball to play out there. I'm excited about that."
The flow the Jets found on defense produced the No. 1 overall defense with a 90.0 grade according to Pro Football Focus. Elite Quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts had some of their lowest passer ratings and production against the Jets' defense in 2023. While the defense played some of its best football against some of the best QBs in the league, Thomas knows there is another level to be reached.
"We think we can play even better ball and we can be a top defense in this league." he said. "We know we can put that on tape and we will this upcoming year, but it's been exciting what we were able to do. We played some really good quarterbacks this year and we played some really good football. Obviously, we want a few games back, but we know this defense is special. We just want to keep growing that and having 8 [Aaron Rodgers] back next year will be special.
With a healthy Aaron Rodgers in the fold along with foundational pieces returning next season, the Jets future looks bright.
"We have everything we want in front of us and we can take it as far as we want.," Thomas said. "You get a quarterback like that, the whole world is open. We have to bring back the right pieces, we have to run the right program and we have to get it going."