Defense is New York Jets Top Priority in 2022 Off-Season

Jets Defense
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Yes, the New York Jets defense has some pieces. Along the defensive line, John Franklin-Myers has proven to be a solid complement to potentially pair opposite of Carl Lawson next season. Quinnen Williams is one of the top interior pass rushers in the league. In the secondary, Bryce Hall and a couple of the other young cornerbacks have stepped up this year too.

But the fact remains the Jets defense is among the worst in the league. Following Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jets defense ranks 29th in pass yards given up per game, 30th in rushing yards allowed per game, and dead last in total yards and points against this season. In other words, the fact remains that despite finding a few key contributors, the Jets defense is far from a finished product.

It has become clear that the New York Jets top priority in the 2022 off-season is to improve their defense. After all, how can Zach Wilson prove himself as a starter if he is only getting the ball just over 20-minutes a game?

Defense is New York Jets Top Priority in 2022 Off-Season

Jets Defensive Line has its Core

As previously mentioned, the Jets have talent along their defensive line. Both Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers have six sacks to their name and have been among the Jets more consistent players. Defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi has not been as dominant as he has been in recent years, somewhat hindering his market as he is a free agent this off-season.

2021 off-season signings Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Vinny Curry, and Ronald Blair have been non-factors. Lawson and Curry never played a snap this season, and Blair has been hurt or on and off the practice squad. Meanwhile, Sheldon Rankins’ performance has been underwhelming, most recently being inactive against the Eagles.

New York may have some pieces to their 2022 defensive line in a healthy Lawson, Franklin-Myers, Williams, and the currently injured Bryce Huff. However, there is a long way to go before the Jets defensive line can truly wreak havoc under Head Coach Robert Saleh.

Chances are, the Jets could wind up using a first-round pick on a pass rusher. Two of the top prospects in the class, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson could give the Jets a premiere number one edge rusher long-term. Or maybe the Jets trade down and consider investing in a defensive tackle, such as DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M or Jordan Davis of Georgia. Either way, there are moves to be made to take this unit to the next level.

Jets Linebacker Corps Need a Makeover

From the moment the 2021 NFL Draft concluded, it was apparent that linebacker would be a weakness for the Jets. Rookie safeties-turned-linebackers Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen have not stepped up in the way New York expected. Sherwood is out the season after a decent start, while Nasirildeen continues to struggle against the run. As for four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, one cannot be surprised by his subpar play given he has only played in two games since 2019 entering the season. Oh, and free agent addition Jarrad Davis did not even debut until midway through the season.

As for the rest of the unit, it is hard to pinpoint anyone who may be a long-term lock. Contractually, 2022 will likely be Mosley’s last with the Jets. Davis, like many of the Jets linebackers, is set to be a free agent. Quinnen Williams’ brother Quincy has shown flashes at times, but his inconsistent play harms his case as a starter moving forward. The same can be said about Sherwood and Nasirildeen, who simply have yet to show they are capable of being fixtures in the starting lineup.

Clearly, the Jets linebacker corps desperately needs help.

In free agency, the Jets could look for experienced but young players to add. For example, Foyesafe Oluokon, Kyzir White, or De’Vondre Campbell. Or maybe the Jest turn to a strong linebacker class, featuring the likes of Devin Lloyd (Utah), Nakobe Dean (Georgia), Christian Harris (Alabama), Brandon Smith (Penn State), and Henry To’oto’o (Alabama). If New York could snag one of these prospects on day two, they could be looking at another day one starter.

Jets Need Consistency in Secondary

Safety

Coming into this season, the Jets secondary was supposed to be the worst unit of the defense. There was little if any experience in the cornerback’s room. Meanwhile, both Week 1 starting safeties, LaMarcus Joyner and Marcus Maye are done for the year. Thus, leaving it up to those inexperienced players to step up.

Ashtyn Davis is the lone safety under contract for 2022. After struggling as a rookie and for the first half of this season, Davis has been showing out of late. Hopefully, he can be a viable starter by the season’s end. Otherwise, the Jets must add two safeties this off-season.

Cornerback

Bryce Hall has been impressive as the Jets top coverage corner this season. Rookies Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols have shown flashes. Former undrafted free agent Javelin Guidry has shown he is more than a special teams gunner. At the same time, Echols has struggled against the run and has been banged up. Rookies Jason Pinnock and Isaiah Dunn have been liabilities.

Bryce Hall may very well earn himself a starting job by the end of the season. The second-year Virginia product has been arguably their best defensive back in 2021. The former fifth-round pick has 10 pass deflections and 53 total tackles to his name in 11 starts. Nevertheless, outside of Hall, there remain a lot of questions.

New York needs an established starter on the outside at corner to help mentor the Jets many young corners. Or maybe the Jets turn to a loaded cornerbacks draft class, with options such as Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU), Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson), Kaiir Elam (Florida), and Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati) who could be day one starters as rookies.

Jets Defense Must Improve

When one looks at how the Jets defense is being built, the real turnaround begins in 2022. Their Head Coach, Robert Saleh, comes from a defensive background as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. With his 49ers defenses, there was elite talent and depth all over. With the Jets lacking in both categories, it will be up to General Manager Joe Douglas to provide Saleh with those game-changers. If not done, 2022 will be just as long of a year as 2021 has been for Gang Green.

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