Nathan Shepherd
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Bryce Hall and a resurgent front seven spearhead a New York Jets defense that has gotten into a groove post-Gregg Williams.

Nathan Shepherd has come to life

Nathan Shepherd had been getting a little bit of playing time throughout the season, averaging 17.3 snaps per game (23.3% of the team’s defensive plays on average) over his first 11 appearances, but he was unable to produce efficiently in his limited role. Through Week 14, Shepherd had two pressures over 99 pass-rush snaps (2.0% rate) and two run stops over 90 run defense snaps (2.2%), via Pro Football Focus.

Over the past two weeks, Shepherd has seen his playing time spike due to the absences of Folorunso Fatukasi (at Los Angeles) and Quinnen Williams (vs. Cleveland), logging a season-high 64.4% of the team’s defensive snaps against the Rams (38 snaps total) and beating that number with a 76.5% portion against the Browns (62 snaps total).

Interestingly enough, Shepherd has been dramatically more efficient in a starting role than he was as a rotational piece.

Shepherd has recorded a sack in back-to-back games and has five pressures across 69 pass-rush snaps over the past two weeks, a solid rate of 7.2% that is right around the positional average of 7.1%.

Shepherd also has three run stops over 29 run defense snaps over the past two games, an excellent rate of 10.3% (positional average: 6.8%). He had a fourth stop that was wiped out by a Cleveland clipping penalty that erased the play. Throw that one in and his rate jumps to 13.8%, more than double the positional average.

This is far too small of a sample size to declare that Shepherd has officially re-established himself as the productive force he was near the end of 2019, but it’s surely a step in the right direction.

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John Franklin-Myers maximizes his increase in snaps

Interestingly, with Quinnen Williams out, it was Nathan Shepherd who benefited most, not John Franklin-Myers. Shepherd’s 62 defensive snaps were 13 more than any other defensive lineman on the team.

Regardless, Franklin-Myers still got a solid bump in his playing time. Franklin-Myers played 49 snaps, his second-highest total of the season (his 60% portion is also second-highest).

Franklin-Myers maintained his tremendous efficiency over the increased volume. He picked up five pressures over 42 pass-rush snaps for a strong rate of 11.9%, including a dominant sack with a double-swipe/rip move against right guard Nick Harris. Franklin-Myers added a pass deflection and a fumble recovery to his line.

The most impressive aspect of Franklin-Myers’ breakout 2020 season has to be his consistency. He has posted a pressure rate above the 2020 league average for an interior defensive lineman (7.1%) in all but one of his games this season.

Bryce Hall locks down Cleveland’s depleted weaponry

Bryce Hall was forced to take on a bunch of difficult matchups over his first few NFL games, lining up against players like Keenan Allen, DeVante Parker, Darren Waller, D.K. Metcalf, and Robert Woods. He finally got a break this past week, taking on a Browns team that lost nearly its entire wide receiver group due to COVID-19, and Hall took full advantage of the favorable matchup, thriving in coverage.

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