JEFF ULBRICH returns for his third season as the defensive coordinator after joining the New York Jets as part of Robert Saleh's first staff in 2021. Ulbrich, a 10-year NFL veteran linebacker, begins his 14th season as a coach, 11th at the NFL level.
This past season (2022), Ulbrich led a defensive unit that finished fourth overall in the NFL in total defense, allowing 311.1 yards per game, a significant improvement from their 32nd rank and 397.6 average in 2021. Since 2000, the Jets are one of just five teams to finish in the top five in total defense a season after ranking last in the League.
Ulbrich's defense allowed an average of just 18.6 points per game in 2022, the fourth best in the NFL and became the only team in the League to not allow a 300-yard passer. Additionally, the unit only allowed six players to hit 100 rushing or receiving yards in a game, tied for the best in the NFL. Ulbrich saw his team finish top five in the NFL in almost all defensive categories this past season.
Much of the unit's 2022 success was attributed to individual bests that were accomplished throughout the year. Ulbrich saw three key defensive players selected to the Pro Bowl, two first-team and second-team All-Pro selections, a second-team All-Pro honor and a Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive lineman and 2022 Curtis Martin Team MVP Quinnen Williams recorded a career year, registering a single-season best 12.0 sacks, tied for the seventh most in a season by a Jet in franchise history. Rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner finished first in the NFL in passes defensed (20) and became the only rookie in the League to produce at least one pass defense in each of his first seven games. Veteran linebacker and team captain C.J. Mosley became one of only four players in the NFL last season to record 12 games with nine+ tackles, while his 158 tackles on the year marked his sixth season registering at least 100+ tackles, one of only five active players to do so.
In his first season with the Jets (2021), Ulbrich oversaw one of the League's youngest defenses, as 63.9% of the snaps came from players 25-years old or less at the start of the year, the highest percentage in the League and the only team over 50%.
"When you're raising a young defense like we are right now, we're getting these scars, these battle wounds. I'd like to think that as much as that hurt, that failure will lead to like the defense we're trying to create here, a Championship-level defense. And when we're playing for championships here, that's going to be one of the reasons that we win them."
In "raising" his defense, the scars were visible early in the 2021 season, however over the final seven weeks, Ulbrich's group improved in points per game, yards per play, passing yards per attempt and yards per rush, all while getting valuable reps for a number of young players.
Perhaps no group epitomized the team's youth as much as the secondary as the top six snap counts among Jets defensive backs were all in their first two seasons. Throughout the League, no team had more snaps from rookie and second-year players in their secondary than the 4,468 by the Jets in 2021. Second-year cornerback Bryce Hall finished in the top 10 in passes defensed, while fellow starter, rookie CB Brandin Echols finished in the top 10 among all rookies in PDs.
Upfront, the Jets saw seven different defensive linemen register at least 15+ pressures, while Williams was one of just two players in the League in the top 10 in stop, stuff and sack percentage (according to Next Gen Stats). At linebacker, Mosley and roster reduction waiver claim Quincy Williams, both recorded a single season high in tackles as Mosley, the 2021 Curtis Martin Team MVP, finished fourth in the League.
Prior to the Jets, Ulbrich spent six seasons with the Falcons, the first five as the team's linebackers coach (2015-19), before he added the title of assistant head coach (2020). In 2020, following Raheem Morris' move to interim head coach in Week Six, he became the interim defensive coordinator for the final 11 games. Under Ulbrich, the defense improved in every category: total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, rushing defense, third down defense and red zone defense, while also producing sacks and interceptions at a higher rate. In those final 11 games, the Falcons ranked in the top third of the league in opponents third-down percentage and opposing red zone touchdown percentage, while also allowing the sixth fewest rushing yards per game.
In his six seasons with Atlanta, Ulbrich has had a linebacker register 90+ tackles nine times, including by four different players: Deion Jones (four times), De'Vondre Campbell (three), Foyesade Oluokun and Paul Worrilow. Jones, a second-round pick in 2016, produced 100+ tackles in every season in which he played at least 15 games, posting 513 tackles, the eighth most in the league since 2016. Additionally, Jones, a Pro Bowler, finished in the top two among all linebackers in passes defensed (38), interceptions (11) and defensive touchdowns (5) since 2016. Oluokun, a former sixth-round pick out of Yale in 2018, finished second behind Jones in total tackles, while also recording six forced fumbles, the most on the team in his three seasons under Ulbrich.
Originally hired as the team's linebackers and special teams coach, Ulbrich added the title of assistant head coach in the spring of his first year at UCLA (2012), spending two years in that role before becoming the defensive coordinator in 2014. In his time with the Bruins, he helped Anthony Barr convert from running back to linebacker before finishing second in the country with 13.5 sacks (2012), Myles Jack earn Pac-12 Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year honors (2013), and Eric Kendricks earn both the Butkus Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy after leading the nation in solo tackles per game (2014). All three players were selected in the first or second round of the NFL draft and both Barr and Kendrick have been selected as Pro Bowlers in the NFL. As a special teams coach, he joined just three other schools as the only FBS teams to finish the regular season among the top-20 nationally in both kickoffs and kickoff returns during the 2013 season.
Following his 10-year playing career, Ulbrich started his coaching career with Seattle in 2010 as special teams assistant for two seasons. During the 2010 season, kicker Olindo Mare matched the sixth-longest field goal streak with 30 straight, while the kickoff return units ranked third in the NFL and the kickoff cover group ranked fifth in the league.
A former third-round selection by San Francisco in the 2000 NFL Draft, Ulbrich played linebacker in 120 games (75 starts) over 10 seasons with the 49ers and posted 653 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and 13 passes defensed, including 481 tackles between 2001-04, when he started 56 of 59 games. A starter for two seasons at Hawai'i, he was named All-WAC first team and was a team co-captain as a senior, as he led the conference with a school single-season record 169 tackles. Prior to Hawai'i, he spent a year at Gavilan (CA) Junior College where he earned first-team All-Conference and team MVP honors after redshirting at San Jose State as a freshman.
Ulbrich and his wife, Cristina, have a daughter, Samantha, and two sons, Jax and Jace.
New York Jets | 2021-Present
Defensive Coordinator - 2021-Present
Atlanta Falcons | 2015-20
Interim Defensive Coordinator - 2020
Assistant Head Coach / Linebackers - 2020
Linebackers - 2015-19
UCLA | 2012-14
Defensive Coordinator - 2014
Assistant Head Coach / Linebackers / Special Teams - 2012-13
Seattle Seahawks | 2010-11
Special Teams Assistant - 2010-11
San Francisco 49ers (Linebacker) - 2000-09
Hawai'i (Linebacker) - 1998-99
Gavilan (CA) Junior College (Linebacker) - 1997
San Jose State (Linebacker) - 1996