Folorunso Fatukasi‘s absence will leave the Jets without their best performer in the one area where they have actually been decent.
Stopping the run is the only thing the Jets can be considered good at. They rank 12th in fewest rushing yards per game allowed (112.8), eighth in rush defense DVOA (-19.3%), fourth in fewest rushing yards per attempt allowed (3.9), and fourth in estimated points added from rushing defense (+26.1).
One of the primary driving forces behind the Jets’ lone strength has been Foley Fatukasi, the third-year defensive tackle from Rockaway Park, Queens, by way of the University of Connecticut.
Fatukasi currently sports a run defense grade of 89.9 at Pro Football Focus, best in the league among all interior defensive linemen.
The Jets will be without Fatukasi on Sunday as he has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Against a Rams offense that is ranked No. 1 in rush offense DVOA (+9.9%), Fatukasi’s absence spells major trouble for the Jets. They just coughed up 174 rushing yards to Seattle’s 11th-ranked rushing offense (based on DVOA) even with Fatukasi on the field. Without him, against the league’s best ground game? Yikes. Fire up Cam Akers on your fantasy team with zero hesitation.
Fatukasi’s absence will leave the Jets’ defensive line looking a lot more fragile against the run than it typically does. His destructive power makes a profound impact on a weekly basis, and in a variety of different ways, too. It’s not just Fatukasi’s on-the-ball plays that have elevated him to his status as an elite run-stuffer. It’s also the work he does off the stat-sheet that makes him such a high-impact player.
Let’s dig into some of what the Jets will be missing with Fatukasi out of action.
Make no mistake about it – while much of Fatukasi’s impact flies under the radar, he’s still elite when it comes to filling up the box score with impactful tackles of his own. Fatukasi has made 22 tackles in the run game that held the ball-carrier short of the first down marker and to a gain of two yards or less, which ties him for seventh-most among interior defensive linemen.
Fatukasi lines up as the 3-tech on this play. On the back side of an inside zone handoff, he explodes off the ball, stays low, and extends both arms to split the combo block of the left guard and left tackle, making the play for a 3-yard loss.
Great job by Quinnen Williams as well, completely blowing up the front side of the play with an absolute manhandling of the center followed by an effortless block shed.
At the 1-tech, Fatukasi moves the center three yards deep into the backfield, completely eliminating any running room on the front side of the play and prompting the runner to cut back, where reinforcements await. Fatukasi sheds the block and gets involved on the tackle for a 2-yard loss, sharing credit with Neville Hewitt.
Fatukasi’s range often stands out on tape. He is not especially fast, but he has a motor that does not stop, allowing him to make far more plays near the sideline than a 318-pound man has any business making. Watch Fatukasi relentlessly track this play down from the 3-tech to record a 1-yard tackle-for-loss outside of the numbers, clobbering every Bills blocker that stands in his way to prevent an upfield cut and then diving to make the stop himself.
When another member of the Jets defense records a stuff in the run game, Fatukasi is often the reason that they had the opportunity to do so.
Watch how Fatukasi recovers on this play to close off the desired running lane and save a potentially solid gain, instead forcing the running back to cut into traffic for a short gain.