With a career-high snap count thanks to Quinnen Williams‘ injury, Folorunso Fatukasi extrapolated his run-stopping dominance over a large volume.
Quinnen Williams missed the Jets’ Monday Night Football clash due to a hamstring injury, paving the way for Foley Fatukasi to take the field for a career-high 55 defensive snaps (67.9% of the Jets’ defensive plays).
Fatukasi has always been an excellent run-stuffer on the interior for New York, but he has typically done it as a rotational piece. The New England game marked the first outing of Fatukasi’s career in which he played over 60% of the defensive snaps. He had played over 50% in just three of his previous 23 games. His total of 55 snaps against the Patriots was 14 more than his previous career-high.
Despite his lack of experience in a featured role, Fatukasi took full advantage of the opportunity and shined on the national stage. Maintaining his run-stopping efficiency over the increased volume, he racked up six tackles against the run that held the runner short of the first down marker and to a gain of two yards or less, the most such tackles of any player in the NFL in Week 9.
Plus, Fatukasi had his breakout game against New England’s outstanding interior offensive line and elite run game. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney are each ranked among Pro Football Focus’ top-10 guards this season. David Andrews is PFF’s 16th-ranked center and placed top-10 in each of his previous two seasons. That trio has helped New England’s run game record the lowest stuff rate in the NFL (11%) while ranking first in rushing touchdowns per game (1.6), third in rush offense DVOA (+2.9%), and fourth in adjusted line yards per carry (4.84).
Handling a far larger role than he ever has before and doing it against top-tier competition, Fatukasi defied the odds and dominated.
Let’s dig into the film of Fatukasi’s tremendous performance.
Many interior run-stopping specialists are just there to take up space, but Fatukasi does not fall under that umbrella. Fatukasi is a wrecking ball, blowing up plays with outstanding penetration. His ability to clog gaps and penetrate is why Gregg Williams trusted him to play at the nose tackle position (directly over the center) on an incredible 70.9% of his defensive snaps against New England – 39 snaps total.
That is old-school football right there. It is incredibly rare to see someone at the nose that frequently in the modern NFL. Fatukasi played only 4.9 snaps per game at nose tackle (14.2% of his defensive snaps) over his first eight games this season. Over his career to date, he had never even played more than 11 snaps at nose tackle in a game!
Although he lined up elsewhere on 29.1% of his snaps against the Patriots, all six of Fatukasi’s run stops in the game occurred when he was lined up at nose tackle.
Fatukasi comes off the ball with good pad level, staying lower than the center, Andrews. Fatukasi stands him up and then sends him hopping into the backfield, forcing a quick decision by Damien Harris. Fatukasi sheds Andrews with ease and explodes laterally to wrap up Harris in a hurry, bringing him down for no gain. There aren’t a ton of 318-pounders in the league who can look this powerful and this quick during the same play.