FLORHAM PARK, NJ – In consecutive games in a red zone, Carl Lawson stopped running the defensive end of the New York Jets, Michael Carter on loss, and John Franklin-Myers broke his pocket to fire Zach Wilson.
The defense line of the jets owned Monday in training camp. You expect to have many days this season.
With a young team in flux, the strength of the jets is the line of defense. Coach Robert Saleh’s scheme is based on a strong line game, so they have focused heavily on the defensive linemen in the independent NFL agency. They added Lawson and Sheldon Rankins to a recurring group that featured Quinnen Williams. There aren’t any Pro Bowl players in the group (not yet, anyway), but it’s a talented, eclectic bunch that goes eight or nine deep.
“I assume it’ll be pretty darn good,” said Rankins, a 2016 first-round pick for the New Orleans Saints. “I played with Cam Jordan. I played with David Onyemata. I played with Marcus Davenport. I played with Trey Hendrickson who was just getting paid [by the Cincinnati Bengals]. I’ve played with some good guys. But with the guys I play with now, in this scheme, I feel like the sky is the limit.
“Whoever we’re rolling out there, teams are better – excuse my French – buckle your S —. We come. And when that group gets tired, the next group comes minutes of a soccer game and dominates games. “
The Jets also have Folorunso Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd, along with veteran importers Ronald Blair and Vinny Curry (injured). Lawson, Franklin-Myers, Fatukasi, and Sheppard get most of the first-team representatives on the grassroots front while Rankins works to throw up. They still don’t have a Williams who broke a foot in the off-season and is two weeks away from returning to practice.
While the Jets don’t have a real star, they do have enough starting caliber players to form a strong six- or seven-man rotation that should keep everyone fresh. Unlike the previous system, which required the linemen to read and react, Saleh’s plan has them attacking in the field. As Rankins colorfully noted, her job is “to get three yards backcourt … whatever that f — it happens.”
The Jets have great expectations of their line of defense. Sound familiar?
In 2016 and 2017, they were laden with high draft picks – Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams – but the line never reached its potential. It always made you want more. One reason for this was that the offense was so bad that it never had many chances to play with a lead, which affected the ability to be aggressive on the defensive. This group broke up before they had a chance to do anything memorable.
Once again, the offense – led by rookie quarterback Wilson – is a big unknown. If the Jets have trouble scoring points, Lawson, Rankins, Williams & Co. won’t have as many pass rushing chances. That could be problematic.
In terms of philosophy, the Jets did a 180. Under previous coordinator Gregg Williams, they flashed a lot, trying to confuse opponents with multiple fronts and pre-snap moves. Saleh believes in a four-man rush. During his four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator, he rushed through only 23% of passing games five or more, making it 23rd in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The jets were in third place with 34% in the same period.
“… There are schemes out there that can turn him off his rocker, and you can try to turn him off his game, but when you start putting pressure on and trying to outsmart a quarterback, the big guys can get you off, really to pay, really bad way, “said Saleh. “The only position that can really affect the quarterback without actually doing something stupid so that you can just play good, solid fundamental football in the backend is on the defensive line. [It’s about] Win one-on-one and kick the quarterback in the face and make his life hell. “
For a man, the players say that Saleh’s system is much easier to absorb and execute than the previous one. In theory, it should minimize the growing pains and allow them to play quickly. Buckle up.