With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching on April 29 and NFL free agency slowing down, here’s an overview on where each position group stands.
Who’s on the roster: Vinny Curry, Carl Lawson, Folorunso Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, Kyle Phillips, Nathan Shepherd, Tanzel Smart, Quinnen Williams, Jabari Zuniga and Sheldon Rankins.
The Jets have made one thing clear this offseason: build a ferocious defensive line.
Head coach Robert Saleh saw what a mammoth defensive line featuring Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner did for the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. The 49ers defense allowed 19 points per game and were fifth in the NFL in sacks (48). That helped take the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV.
Now, the Jets aren’t going to the Super Bowl in 2021 (if they do, put Saleh in the Hall of Fame immediately. But the blueprint for a dominant defense is manifesting.
When defenses harass the quarterback, it makes the offense’s life miserable. Patrick Mahomes experienced that in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He’s a runner, he’s a track star. He gon’ run away when it gets hard.
That represented Mahomes’ whole night as ran for his life to get away from the Bucs’ pressure as they were battering him.
Last year, the Jets pass rush wasn’t good, they only had 31 sacks. Williams had seven of them while the second highest on the team was Tarell Basham with 3.5. That can’t happen this year if the Jets want to improve their defense and they appear to have corrected the issue.
Adding Lawson, Rankins and Curry were excellent moves by general manager Joe Douglas.
Lawson had only 5.5 sacks but he constantly pressured quarterbacks. He had 32 quarterback hits, which was second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (41), and he also had 64 total pressures.
Rankins is looking to return to his 2018 form, when he finished with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Joining Williams was a draw for Curry and he acknowledged Williams’ dominant talent when he spoke to reporters during a zoom call.
“I think he’s a beast. I think last season he got into his groove and just wrecked havoc,” Curry said. “I only think he’s going to get better from there.”
The Jets’ defensive line is stacked with talent. Rankins understands how tantalizing the ferocious group is and how Saleh’s scheme led him to Gang Green.
“Seeing the way he deployed those guys when they were in San Fran,” Rankins said. “The type of havoc they caused, truly winning games with their front four, got me excited.”
The new trio will add to a young and talented defensive line featuring Williams, Fatukasi and Franklin-Myers.
“A great thing about talent on the defensive line is you can’t double everybody. So whether it is them trying to put extra guys on Carl, extra guys on Quinnen, extra guys on Foley, John Franklin,” Rankins said. “When you really look at the depth of this defensive line there’s not a lot of guys who can truly give too many one on ones too, and those guys not win. I’ll be extremely happy if they decided to double everybody else and gave me a one on ones. That’ll be a beautiful thing. I’ll take all those every game. And I like me to win most of mine.”
Rankins feels the defense is as talented as any team in the league.
“We’ll continue to add more pieces and build this thing up. Once it’s time to really get rolling and play real football, I think we have the makings of something truly special.”
With a loaded defensive line, the Jets don’t have to use an early draft pick but here are a few options for the later rounds.
Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
Bashmam is an instinctive explosive edge rusher. The 6-5, 280-pound DE has a high IQ which helps him diagnose plays and has the speed to track ball carriers. He showcased an assortment of moves getting off blocks. Explosive up the field and rarely gets knocked off his feet. Teams in the ACC always sent double teams at him.
He finished his career with 35.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks. He was First-Team All-ACC in 2019 and Third-Team in 2020.
Patrick Jones, Pittsburgh
Jones is an athletic defensive end who can wreck the line of scrimmage. His explosiveness stands out. He had 21.5 sacks during his Pitt career, including a career best nine in 2020. Jones was First-Team All-ACC in 2020 and Second-Team All-ACC in 2019.
Joe Tryon, Washington
Tryon opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, but exploded for eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2019. He made Second-Team All-Pac-12.
Tryon is a 6-5, 262-pound athlete and has great upside with all the physical traits that fit what the Jets are looking for. He has a good burst off the snap and uses proper pad level to get leverage on blockers.
2. Running Backs
3. Wide Receivers
4. Tight Ends
5. Offensive Line