A deep dive into the most important numbers behind each new member of Robert Saleh‘s 2021 New York Jets coaching staff on the defensive side.
We’ll be breaking down all of the defensive coaching hires announced by the New York Jets following Robert Saleh’s introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon:
We’ve also hired five assistants to our defensive coaching staff.
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— New York Jets (@nyjets) January 21, 2021
Aaron Whitecotton (Defensive Line)
- Assistant Defensive Line – 49ers (2020)
- Assistant Defensive Line – Bills (2018-19)
- Administrative Assistant to the Head Coach – Bills (2017)
- Assistant Defensive Line – Jaguars (2016)
- Assistant to the Defensive Staff – Jaguars (2013-15)
- Defensive Assistant – New Mexico St. (2012)
Whitecotton did a decent job with the 49ers’ defensive line in 2020, helping the unit stay afloat after injuries to Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford. Defensive end Kerry Hyder enjoyed a breakout season with a career-best 55 pressures, 13th-most among edge defenders. However, star defensive end Arik Armstead posted a career-low pressure rate of 8.9%, although that can likely be attributed to the heavy loss of talent on San Francisco’s defensive front leading to more attention being placed upon Armstead.
In 2019, Whitecotton oversaw an excellent season of growth from Buffalo’s defensive line. Jordan Phillips (9.5 sacks) and Shaq Lawson (6.5 sacks) each posted career-highs in sacks. Without Whitecotton in 2020, Phillips and Lawson combined for six sacks in 23 games.
Nathan Ollie (Assistant Defensive Line)
- Assistant Defensive Line – Eagles (2019-20)
- Defensive Line – Western Kentucky (2018)
- Graduate Assistant – Tennessee (2015-17)
Philadelphia had its share of issues in 2020, but the defensive line was not one of them. According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles’ defense ranked second in the NFL with a 28.1% pressure rate, even while blitzing at the fifth-lowest rate (22.2%). Fletcher Cox (14th – 43 pressures), Javon Hargrave (19th – 37 pressures) and Malik Jackson (22nd – 33 pressures) made up the only trio of interior defensive line teammates to each rank top-25 at the position in pressures.
Chip Vaughn (Defensive Assistant)
- Defensive Assistant – Jets (2020-present)
- Secondary – Air Force (2018-19)
- Defensive Backs and Passing Game Coordinator – Fayetteville St. (2016-17)
- Secondary and Special Teams – Winston-Salem St. (2015)
Vaughn is a holdover from the Jets’ 2020 staff. He was a fourth-round pick of the Saints in 2009 out of Wake Forest, but only ended up playing three NFL games for the Colts in 2010.
At the Air Force Academy, Vaughn played a part in an enormous turnaround on the defensive side of the ball. In 2017, the year before Vaughn arrived, Air Force ranked 101st in the nation with 32.4 points per game allowed. The school rose to 56th with 25.8 points per game allowed in 2018, and in 2019, they skyrocketed to 20th with only 19.8 points per game allowed.
Ricky Manning Jr. (Defensive Assistant)
- Assistant Defensive Backs – Seahawks (2016-17)
- Graduate Assistant – Fresno St. (2015)
- Defensive Backs and Special Teams – Fresno City College (2013-14)
Manning has not coached since serving as the Seahawks’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2017.
In 2017, the Seahawks had a tremendous development story come out of their DB room in the form of rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin. The third-round pick out of Central Florida had an outstanding debut season, ranking 15th among cornerbacks with 15 passes defended (fourth among rookies behind Tre’Davious White, Marshon Lattimore and Adoree’ Jackson) while allowing only 6.3 yards per target, which still stands as a career-best.
Manning played 84 NFL games at cornerback for the Panthers, Bears, and Rams from 2003-08. He was a third-round pick out of UCLA in 2003.
Hayes Pullard (Defensive Assistant)
- Quality Control Analyst – Southern California (2020)
Only 28 years old, Pullard was in the NFL as recently as 2019, a year in which he spent time with the Cardinals and Eagles during the offseason. A seventh-round pick out of Southern California in 2015, he played 46 NFL games at linebacker for the Jaguars and Chargers from 2015-18, also consistently playing on special teams.
The USC defense had an improved season in 2020, ranking 32nd out of 127 teams in defensive FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index, via Football Outsiders), the school’s best position since 2013. It represented a 25-spot leap from their No. 57 ranking in 2019.
Jeff Ulbrich (Defensive Coordinator)
- Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers – Falcons (promoted over final 11 games of 2020)
- Assistant Head Coach and Linebackers – Falcons (2020)
- Linebackers – Falcons (2015-19)
- Linebackers and Special Teams – UCLA (2012-14)
- Assistant Special Teams – Seahawks (2010-11)
Ulbrich massively increased the attractiveness of his resume with an outstanding finish to the 2020 season. After Dan Quinn was fired five games into the season, Ulbrich took on the defensive coordinator role (previously held by Raheem Morris, who was promoted to interim head coach) and led the Falcons’ defense to extraordinary improvement.
Saleh and Ulbrich both seem to have deep histories as linebackers coaches. Probably time to start looking at what LB they’ll be picking in the 3rd or 4th rounds.
Nobody is really talking about LB, but they have big needs at that position. Need speedy, rangy guys who can cover to go next to Mosley. They don’t have a single off-ball LB to like besides Mosley. Investments will be made there. Considering the LB backgrounds of Saleh and Ulbrich as you mentioned, I think we will a surprisingly big move or two at LB.