The magic a legit, athletic EDGE would create for Gregg Williams’s New York Jets defense is way beyond impactful.
The organization’s white whale. No, I’m not talking about a franchise quarterback or offensive line. With Sam Darnold and even Chad Pennington, to go along with the studly offensive line unit led by Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, those two positions have at least seen the light of day.
The New York Jets white whale is found in a more athletic area of the field, one that’s increased in importance throughout the years, especially against the ground game.
EDGE is the spot no man, woman or child has been able to successfully reel in from a football sea housing so few. Not since the brand-spanking-new front-office tandem that was Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum traded John Abraham prior to the 2006 season, have the Jets felt comfortable on the outside.
That means 14 years of often big-bodied, sluggish action off the edge. Worse yet, it just may be one more year until Joe Douglas snags one.
Interestingly, when he finally does reel in that unique fella, everything changes. Gregg Williams’s defense has the ability to change in drastic ways thanks to the possible arrival of a legit, athletic EDGE.
The Current Limitations Are Crippling
To think this Jets defense went without a legit outside presence all of 2019 and still came out on the other side 10th in defensive DVOA is nothing short of a miracle.
Without a four-man conventional pass rush, Williams eventually formed a defensive identity around the middle of his defensive backfield. Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye and Brian Poole led the way whether it came by blitz or a disguised coverage.
The confusion game in the secondary is the only way to combat a poor pass rush, yet it hardly works in today’s game thanks to its three-step nature. The quicker the release time means blitz effectiveness decreases. This means the four-man conventional rush becomes that much more critical.
How Williams combated the issue was by playing big on one of the edges.
If the problem isn’t obvious off the bat, it should be. Throwing a 300-pound defensive lineman (Henry Anderson) on the edge is not the best formula in today’s NFL. Few can pull it off. Calais Campbell is the exception, not the rule. J.J. Watt, though he oftentimes plays the edge, is an interior guy at heart. Those big guys can get it done in certain spots when it makes sense (pin your ears back spots), but it should never be the initial plan.