Can Ronald Blair be the NY Jets’ go-to run stopper on the edge?
The primary waves of free agency and the NFL draft came and went. While the New York Jets ended up with one of the best/deepest defensive lines in the entire NFL, boasting names such as Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins, Foley Fatukasi, and Vinny Curry, there was still something missing.
We knew that the Jets would have a hard time finding a second stud defensive end to place opposite Lawson. They may look to do so in the 2022 offseason.
Regardless, they still had a question to answer on the defensive line: who is the player that can set the edge consistently as a rotational piece on run downs?
The full Jet X member-only video is near the bottom of this page and can also be seen on the Blewett's Blitz homepage (if you're a paid member and logged in).
While Curry and Franklin-Myers are strong rushers, run-stuffing isn’t their best trait. It would also be preferred to have Franklin-Myers playing inside of the tackle as much as possible, as that’s where he is the most effective as a pass rusher.
So, who was going to be that player?
There was no obvious answer until the Jets signed the San Francisco 49ers’ former fifth-round pick, 28-year-old Ronald Blair.
Coach Robert Saleh has had high praise for Blair in the past. Blair has posted some impressive run-stuffing numbers in his four healthy seasons in the NFL. He has also put up some decent pass-rushing numbers as he has 13.5 sacks in 47 games despite playing a relatively limited role, so he is no slouch there.
Note that Blair was also on an upward trend with sacks as he posted 5.5 sacks in 2018 and three sacks over only nine games in 2019.
Unfortunately for Blair, his 2019 season was cut short as he tore his ACL while he was tackling Russell Wilson in a Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers were hopeful that Blair could come back for the start of the 2020 NFL season but he suffered a setback, as he had to have a follow-up surgery on his knee last summer. This caused Blair to miss the entirety of the 2020 NFL season.
Blair’s health question marks resulted in the Jets lucking out with a high-quality signing late in the offseason. He was both an effective edge setter and a decent pass rusher for the 49ers in a limited role.
Let’s take a look at some plays showcasing Blair’s major strengths and weaknesses. Below, you will also find a full list of strengths and weaknesses, plus a member-only Ronald Blair film breakdown that is nearly 40 minutes in length.
Blewett’s Blitz podcast episode
Highlighted strengths and weaknesses
Blair’s power often shows up in the run game, but I want to show that he is also a decent pass rusher as well.
Here, Blair lines up as the 6-tech (right side over #39) and is the “picker/penetrator” of this ET stunt. Blair takes one hard step upfield and then crosses the face of the RT in hopes that the RT will overcommit and carry him inside, allowing the NT to “loop” around into a clean C-gap.
The RT passes it off well but the RG is in a bad spot to pick Blair up as the NT occupied the RG, who doesn’t gain any depth. Blair explodes into the hip of the RG, working into the hip to attack the center of gravity, lifting him off of the ground and throwing him aside.
Blair now has a lane to the QB. He takes it and shows off his length as he brings down the QB for the sack as he tries to evade.