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Sunday, July 8, 2018

5 Questions About The Jets Defense

Going into the 2018 season there are tons of questions about the defense. Here are a few......

Leonard Williams
The Jets picked up the fifth-year team option on Leonard Williams before the May 3rd deadline. Only 24 years old, some people think he still has a tremendous upside. Others think he will never amount to the player scouts thought when many had him ranked as the number one player on the draft board. Last year (2017) was a disappointing year for Williams compared to his 2016 season when he had 7 sacks and made the Pro bowl. He only has 12 sacks in 48 career games. This stat may be skewed a bit because of a few factors. Though he only had 2 sacks in 2017 he did have 25 quarterback hits during the season (65 QB hits lifetime). If Jet fans remember Williams sprained his wrist in the Giants pre-season game last August and it wasn’t 100% healed till the end of November. This may sound like a petty excuse considering most NFL players are playing through nagging injuries the whole season. However in Williams case, playing on the defensive line with only one good hand will definitely affect his overall play. With both Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson gone, defenses were able to focus of Williams. The Jets are hoping defensive tackle Nathan Shepard drafted in the third round will step in right away and help take some of the pressure off of Williams.  I would play Williams on the outside more and put him in a good spot to pressure the quarterback. The bottom line is Leonard Williams does have a high ceiling. I expect him to bounce back in a big way in 2018. 

Darron Lee
Anyone who has kids is probably familiar with the children’s puzzle books Where’s Waldo? The book has series of pages with illustrations that the reader is suppose to locate the character Waldo who is hidden in illustrations. What does this have to do with Darron Lee? Well in his first two years in the NFL there were too many times when I said to myself or out loud, “Where’s Darron Lee?” He would become invisible during a game, then all of a sudden you would see a player moving laterally with tremendous quickness and make a great play. The problem is he is more like Waldo then the blur going across your screen a few times. Darron Lee has got to step up his game in 2018. Lee was the Jets first round pick in 2016, 20th overall. Many had him as a top 10 player but he has been far from that. Personally I was screaming at my television wanting the Jets to draft Myles Jack. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) Darron Lee is ranked as the 86th best linebacker in the NFL with a poor rating. Also according to PFF: 

“Darron Lee had enjoyed an impressive three-game run, culminating in the highest single game grade of his career against the Buffalo Bills on a Thursday night. Lee posted a grade of 86.0 in the Jets 34-21 win, largely due to an impressive run defense grade of 87.1.Lee compiled two sacks and a hit as a pass-rusher along with two run stops on a very productive night for the second year linebacker. It follows two weeks of impressive play that started in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins where he racked up 11 tackles and six defensive stops. Over the past three weeks, Lee has accumulated nine stops in the running game for a run stop percentage of 12.5 percent.Up to this point, Lee had struggled somewhat in his young NFL career. After being selected with the 20th pick in the 2016 NFL draft, he posted a PFF grade of just 36.2 as a rookie. Through six weeks of his sophomore season, Lee had only managed an overall grade of 31.9 before his recent string of breakout performances”

Darron Lee has got to put up or shut up in 2018. I am not optimistic about his long term prospects with the Jets. He has got to produce and produce big or the Jets will have to move on from him. 

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Lorenzo Mauldin
If Darron Lee is linebacker question mark #1, then linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is #1a. Lee may have a two year leash but the time is shorter for Mauldin. Lorenzo Mauldin has overcome tremendous odds to get where he is at right now. He spent most of his youth going from one foster home to another. At the time he was drafted with his background written about, you couldn’t help but want him to make it big. In 26 career games he has 6.5 sacks. Unfortunately last August Mauldin got into a fight with offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum and threw a punch. Mauldin didn't touch the field for the remainder of camp and landed on IR Sept. 4. He had season-ending back surgery. Last year was a total wipe out for this player who went to Louisville. According to Darryl Slater of, New York Jets linebacker coach Kevin Greene “has a plan to get more out of (LB Lorenzo) Mauldin,” including becoming more than a “finesse” player. Mauldin has played in a reserve pass-rush role each of his first two seasons on the edge. Of his 615 total snaps 450 of them have been rushing the quarterback. Whatever Greene has in mind, Lorenzo Mauldin has got to stay on the field and has got to make plays. He has been a major disappointment and like Darron Lee, his Jet career may be short. There is no lock for him to even make the 53-man roster in 2018.

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Jets Pass Rush
All Jet fans have heard it over and over again, “the Jets have not had a legitimate pass rusher since John Abraham.” In 2017, the Jets ranked 28th in the NFL with 28 total sacks for the season. No player on the team recorded more than 5 sacks on the year. On day three of the draft, the Jets opted to trade a seventh-round pick for former Colts defensive lineman Henry Anderson. However, this move has flown under the radar somewhat with the focus on the players brought in via the draft.  Anderson's pass rush numbers don't exactly jump off the page, as he has just three career sacks in three years and hasn't generated pressure at a particularly outstanding rate. However, he had two in just eight starts last season and showed an ability to be a disruptive pass rusher in his final year at Stanford with a career-high eight sacks and some of the best pressure numbers in the nation. Anderson is probably not the long term answer to the Jets pass rushing woes. Surprisingly one of the Jets top pass rushers is safety Jammal Adams. When he played in the hybrid linebacker/safety role, he showed a pretty good push for getting into the opponents backfield. With the strengthening of the Jets secondary, I would look for more of using Adams blitzing until a pure pass rusher is had. Did the Jets miss the boat on getting a pass rusher in free agency? General manager Mike Maccagnan made no significant moves to bolster his pass rush in free agency. (In fairness, it was a very weak class.) The Jets should draft the best pass rusher available in 2019. Or they can look at the free agent market which will be lot stronger in 2019 than 2018 with the Jets having the assets to grab one. For 2018 the pressure on the opposing quarterbacks will be weak unless a surprise player steps up.


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Jets Secondary
Sam Darnold may not have been the biggest addition for the Jets in the offseason. Trumaine Johnson may be. With the addition of Johnson, the chatter that is coming from the Jets secondary would make it seem like they are the second coming of the “Legion of Doom.” Jamaal Adams and Marcus Maye both had solid rookie seasons. Mo Claiborne re-upped for one year and depending on which game you saw him play last year he provides some stability. On paper the secondary seems formidable but when you look closer, they may not be as good as they themselves are touting. Adams and Maye should get even better in 2018 but Johnson may be on the downside of his better playing days. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the 68th best cornerback in the league with an average grade. In 2015 Johnson had 7 interceptions but his play has gone down the last 2 years. Whether he can regain his nose for the ball and play like a “shut down” cornerback like he thinks he is, remains to be seen. He is still only 28 and has all the physical ability but let’s see him pass the “eye test.” Mo Claiborne never played to the level that everyone thought when he was the 6th pick in the draft when he came out. There were times last year that he looked like an All-Pro. But other times the opposing quarterback kept throwing his way. With the Jets lacking a pass rush, look for the defense to blitz a lot and like last year Adams will be rushing the passer more than Jet fans would like. Keep an eye on draft pick Parry Nickerson and second year player Doug Middleton. Both can play a key role with the team and should take plays away from Buster Skrine.
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Around the NFL
…..The four-game suspension of Julian Edelman has been upheld. Edelman will miss the first four games of the season.…..Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor has called it a career and retired…..Rumor surfacing that Dez Bryant will end up with the Redskins when he finally signs…..The Steelers , the Cowboys, the Lions, and the Rams have until Monday, July 16, to work out long-term deals with running back Le'Veon Bell, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end Ziggy Ansah, and safety Lamarcus Joyner, respectively. If a long-term deal isn’t signed and approved by the league office before 4:00 p.m. ET on the 16th, the window for doing a long-term closes until the 2018 regular season ends…..ESPN’s Mike Clay just came out with his backfield rankings. His top five: 1) New Orleans Saints 2)Los Angeles Rams 3) Pittsburgh Steelers 4) Atlanta Falcons 5) Dallas Cowboys…..Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was cited for DUI in Chandler, Arizona, on the Fourth of July…..Giants stars Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. will get $12MM and $18MM per year on their next contracts, writes cap expert Jason Fitzgerald of, but they won’t both be with New York, he opines. Fitzgerald thinks at least one will be signing with a team other than the Giants. At this point, Collins seems the likelier of the two to be allowed to walk, considering it was reported recently the team had concerns about his fit with their new scheme…..The Dolphins did a lot of revamping this offseason, and one of the moves they made was trading for defensive end Robert Quinn. With fellow pass-rusher Cameron Wake now 36, the Dolphins are hoping Quinn can “anchor the defensive line for the foreseeable future” according to Mike Rodak of ESPN. The Dolphins gave up a fourth round pick to get him, and it sounds like he’ll be playing a big role in 2018…..Fully guaranteed contracts are in place in the NBA, NHL, and MLB, but aren’t commonplace in the NFL. It was a big deal when Kirk Cousins received his from the Vikings this offseason, and the hope (from a players perspective) is that his would be the first of many……Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones has been suspended two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Jones pleaded no contest to a marijuana-related charge in February. The charge was a result of an Oct. 1 traffic stop…..Nick Foles' autobiography, titled "Believe It," will debut at No. 5 on the New York Times Hardcover, Nonfiction list on Sunday, July 15…..One third of the Atlanta Falcons' new, tantalizing trio of receivers just put his pen to paper. First-round selection Calvin Ridley signed his rookie contract Thursday, the team announced. The agency representing Ridley, SportsTrust Advisors first tweeted Ridley agreed to his deal last Wednesday…..
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