Throughout the history of the New York Jets, the defense has been the mainstay of this team. From the Sack Exchange to the Rex Ryan “Play Like A Jet” era, we always seemed better at keep the opponents out of the end zone, than we were at getting into the opponents end zone.
Even with a Play Off drought going into its 12th season, we have had good to great defensive players in the last decade and we have had impressive units but unfortunately the last 3 or 4 years the draft failures have caught up to us, and the defense has been average at best and a liability at worst.
However, the Robert Saleh era has now begun and with that comes a change from a Base 3-4 to a Base 4-3 and with that comes a string of new coaches, new ideas, new energy and a renewed hope.
So what must the Jets do to get this unit back to being imposing, threatening and downright dirty in 2021?
Let’s dig in.
The first thing we have to do is look at this unit:
The Defensive Line
This is the strength of the unit – Quinnen has All Pro potential and is likely going to see a production jump with the new scheme. John Franklin Myers is emerging as a good young player, as is Foley Fatukasi. We have pieces here and a nice rotation with Nathan Shepherd and Im a big fan of Kyle Phillips and think he will take a leap this year. This is good young and hungry unit, with some nice building blocks.
Returning we have C.J. Mosley, Blake Cashman, Sharif Finch and John Daka. That means Jordan Jenkins, Tarell Basham, Neville Hewitt, Patrick Onwuasor, Harvey Langi, Bryce Hager and Frankie Luvu are all free agents. The outside is a mess, I think they need to try and resign Basham and Hewitt for back-up/rotational roles and need to find some solutions elsewhere. At the inside, they need C.J. Mosley to be what he has in Baltimore and for those 3 quarters of our season opener in 2019. That gives them one starter and maybe Langi makes sense to bring back for rotational reps. Cashman we can’t trust to stay healthy, which is a shame as he’s talented, but was expected with his college injury record.
If you thought the linebackers were bad, the secondary is worse. Returning we have Bless Austin, Corey Ballentine, Javelin Guidry, Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Campbell, Sauqan Hampton, Ashtyn Davis and J.T. Hassell. On the Free Agent side, we are losing Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bradley McDougald, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson and Kyron Brown. With regards to safeties, can we get Marcus Maye back and can we expect a leap from Ashytn Davis going into his second year? If so, then it’s not as bleak. At corner, we are weaker with a series of back-up players who have had starting reps. There is hope for Bryce Hall after some nice games down the stretch, but for me Ballentine, Austin and Jackson are guys I’d rather see rotationally, as opposed to starters.
Taking Care of our Own
My first move is to franchise tag Marcus Maye. He’s about to be 28, and the tag is reasonable. Let’s get him under contract and see one more year of him.
I’d resign Basham, Hewitt and Langi for depth. I’d also see if I can get a favorable deal done with Brian Poole.
Foresight to look at The Draft and Free Agency Together
You have to look at the Free Agency Class and The Draft Together! That’s been a mistake by many Jets GMs in recent years. I think Joe Douglas gets this and thats why he needs to strategize how the Draft will play out and then account for that in his free agency plan.
So here are some of our assumptions:
- We trade Sam Darnold for a mid 2nd round pick
- We select Zach Wilson at #2
- The early part of the draft favors offensive players and we lean that way
For the purpose of this approach, we are assuming we take Zach Wilson at #2 and get a mid second rounder for Sam Darnold. That results in us solving more offensive needs in the draft and turning to Free Agency for the larger needs for the Jets DefenseChris Walker, as of March 6th 2021
So my Top 2 targets in FA are going to be somewhat shocking.
I want to grab either Carl Lawson or Kerry Hyder. I think we need to grab someone that can attack of the right side, as a traditional 5-tech defensive end. Someone that can get to the QB from the edge is whats going to take this defense up a notch and cover up a lot of the troubles on the back-end.
My next move is going and getting Marshon Lattimore.
Lattimore looked elite in his rookie season but he has dropped off slightly. At 25, he still has massive potential and the Saints wouldn’t want to deal him but they are in the trickiest cap situation in the NFL.
For that reason, why not give away that early 3rd round pick to get him in and give us that CB 1 for 2021. We have the cap room to absorb his contract and could extend him. Getting a lead corner-back is key to this defense. I love Jaycee Horn but I can’t see him making it to #23 in the draft. I think trading for Lattimore would be a strong, aggressive move.
Jayon Brown is the guy I am looking to get as the WLB. He’s very good in coverage and I think his skillset compliments C.J. Mosley. He’s not going to be cheap but if price is the concern then I am turning to Anthony Walker from The Colts and trying to find help in the draft.
Truthfully, I’m double dipping at Corner Back and if Greg Newsome is there in the 2nd round with the pick we get back for Sam Darnold. If he’s not there, then I would look at getting Paulson Adebo in the 4th or 5th round.
I’m using the middle round picks to look for defensive gems, guys that can start and compete for roles. I think there are some great players in this draft and the Jets can do well by taking lots of shots in the mid to late rounds.
Draft – Wheeling and Dealing
So in a mock draft simulation, we also moved around the board to get us:
- Greg Newsome at #51
- Patrick Jones at #86
- Bobby Brown at #120
- Shaun Wade at #137
- Tony Fields at #139
- Paulson Adebo at #147
That moves I would make to get this defense right then totals as:
- Carl Lawson or Kerry Hyder
- Marshon Lattimore
- Jayon Brown or Anthony Walker
- Greg Newsome
- Patrick Jones
- Bobby Brown
- Shaun Wade
- Tony Fields
- Paulson Adebo