John Franklin-Myers’ versatility to play both inside and outside will serve him well in Robert Saleh’s New York Jets defense.
With the Jets’ impending switch to a 4-3 base defense and the addition of Sheldon Rankins, one particular player has been left in limbo regarding where he will be lining up in 2021: John Franklin-Myers.
The 24-year-old product of Stephen F. Austin had a breakout season in 2020, benefiting immensely from a switch to the interior defensive line after playing the edge as a rookie with the Rams in 2018. As a defensive tackle for the Jets, Franklin-Myers created pressure on 14.4% of his pass-rush snaps in 2020, third-best among interior defensive linemen behind only Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Donald.
However, with the way the depth chart is shaping up, it is starting to look like Franklin-Myers may be poised to play significantly more often on the edge. He should still play quite often on the inside – Rankins likely will be simply replacing Henry Anderson in last year’s 4-man IDL rotation that also featured Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams, and Folorunso Fatukasi, so things aren’t looking too different at that position – but with the Jets lacking a second EDGE starter opposite Carl Lawson who can play the majority of the game, there will be a lot of rotating on the outside, and Franklin-Myers is a good option to be kicked out there in certain situations because of his experience in the role.
Franklin-Myers was primarily an EDGE player for the Rams in his 2018 rookie season, and he had some success.
Most often playing the 5-technique spot, Franklin-Myers lined up as the outside defensive end on 70.6% of his snaps in 2018. Los Angeles used Franklin-Myers as a pass rushing specialist. He played only about 32% of the team’s defensive snaps in his average game, and the majority of his snaps – 77.4% – came on passing plays. That was the third-highest pass/run ratio among qualified edge defenders.
The Rams deployed Franklin-Myers in that way for good reason. He was an excellent pass rusher, but wasn’t fantastic against the run. Franklin-Myers ranked at the 74th percentile among qualified edge rushers with an 11.7% pressure rate in the regular season, but his 57.6 run defense grade at Pro Football Focus ranked at the 18th percentile.
While he primarily played on the interior for the Jets in 2020, Franklin-Myers still played on the edge occasionally, lining up as the outside defensive end on 15.8% of his snaps.
Interestingly enough, Franklin-Myers’ struggles against the run persisted when he played on the edge in 2020. In Franklin-Myers’ two 2020 games in which he played the most snaps at outside defensive end – Weeks 6-7 against Miami and Buffalo in which he played 39% of his snaps on the edge across the two games – he posted run defense grades of 42.1 (season-low) and 56.7. However, he rushed the passer even more effectively than usual in those games, posting a dominant pressure rate of 18.6% across the two-week span.
What does Franklin-Myers’ track record as an edge defender tell us about his capabilities of playing the position for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich in 2021? Let’s dig into his film with the Rams in 2018 and his fleeting moments on the edge with the Jets in 2020.
Because of his size (288 pounds in 2020), Franklin-Myers’ EDGE snaps in 2021 will likely come primarily in high-likelihood rushing situations where the Jets are looking to beef up the defensive front. Franklin-Myers could kick out to 5-technique so either Fatukasi, Rankins, or both can sub in alongside Williams on the interior. On the other hand, it makes sense to think he will kick back inside on passing downs so his quickness advantage and elite interior rush skills could be maximized.
For this reason, it’s important to look back at Franklin-Myers’ play against the run and figure out why he has graded so poorly when manning the edge. Is this a concern regarding his potential to play the edge in 2021? Has he actually struggled that much against the run?