Linebacker remains the New York Jets’ biggest weakness thus far
Remember the days when the New York Jets had a great linebacker group?
The Jets once had individual solid contributors such as David Harris and Demario Davis. However, they’ve neglected the position in recent years. Surprisingly, general manager Joe Douglas decided not to draft any linebackers in 2022.
Right now, New York’s linebacker room is dangerously thin. C.J. Mosley mans the middle. His 38.5 run-stopping grade at Pro Football Focus in 2021 (ranked 51st out of 60 linebackers) helps explain why the Jets’ run defense ranked 29th in rushing yards per game allowed. Mosley’s high tackle total (168) is a flawed metric. After nearly two full seasons away from the game, Mosley has lost a step or three.
Quincy Williams‘ 2021 stats are also ugly. Williams had a 44.2 overall grade at PFF (46th out of 60 linebackers) and a 41.7 grade in run defense (46th), further explaining the Jets’ abysmal 2021 run defense. Williams’ 12.1% missed tackle percentage ranked 38th out of 60 qualifying linebackers. His saving grace was three forced fumbles.
Although the Jets like Williams, his numbers do not indicate that he will aid a defensive turnaround.
Since the Jets play a lot of 4-2-5 nickel defense, Mosley and Williams will often be the only linebackers on the field. The Jets’ next two linebackers, converted safeties Hamsah Nasrildeen and Jamien Sherwood, leave a lot to be desired.
Middle Tennessee State rookie D.Q. Thomas is an intriguing UDFA who held his own against the run in college. He’s another undersized linebacker at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds. Thomas can sneak onto the roster if the Jets don’t make significant depth moves.
Clearly, Douglas is not finished building the linebacker room. The Jets continue to show interest in free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander and appear to have made him a take-it-or-leave-it offer. He won’t fix the Jets’ run-stopping woes at linebacker, though, having posted an awful 34.8 run defense grade last season.
Other available players for Douglas to pursue include Anthony Hitchens (41.5 run grade) or Joe Schobert (48.3). Not exactly a great recipe for run defense improvement.
Overall, Douglas’ neglect at linebacker may come back to bite the Jets. Leaving the middle of the field thin in run-stopping overloads a weakness. We’ll see if Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich can compensate for those deficiencies.
And with those other players you mentioned with the stats or grades, I would rather run with our own last year rookies as depth at the position. Now Ogunjobi would be a great piece at DT, but I have more faith in Sherwood and Hamsah because they are second year linebackers now and they too should take a leap this year with the same system.
Love the Ruckert Pick in the late Third round, but we obtained two Quality TE’s in FA. Jets picked Ruckert at 101, at 102 LB Channing Tindall went to the Phins, and at 103 my favorite, LB Leo Chenal from Wisconsin, a great value pick..Jets have had opportunities to invest at the linebacker position, but have passed. It’s about choices. Not sure what the Jets see in Quincy, at best they are projecting. The Jets are stubborn with this Safety/Linebacker conversion policy, which is at least experimental. Kindly note , Sherwood’s Achilles injury, may delay his start of the season. Nothing in the pipeline, things do not look promising. But look at how quickly the CB and TE groups turned around. Linebacker is a looming disaster, but hope we get a bandaid like a Kwon Alexander.
Agreed about the opportunity cost of taking Ruckert. I also don’t understand Saleh’s insistence on keeping undersized linebackers who will get eaten alive in the run game. It’s like we’re begging teams to keep running down our throat.
As I said in the article, Kwon is not a solution to our run defense woes.
Getting eaten alive by the Run game could be a reoccurring theme , the Ravens will be a great indicator in the first game. Consider, the Jets going also with tiny Defensive Tackles, without a run stuffing Tackle, a deliberate decision, now couple that with the noted Linebacker deficiencies, a recipe for disaster
Yes, we need a run-stuffing tackle, but there doesn’t seem to be one available.
Surprisingly there are a good number of options available out there such as Eddie Goldman, Suh, C. Peters, Linval Joseph, Star Lotulelei, Steve McClendon, Danny Shelton. Would be up to us to pick our flavor and price point.
The price is going to be a big deal for the Jets given their cap situation. I would cut Sheldon Rankins and replace him with one of the guys above. I wouldn’t cry if the Jets brought back McClendon. Shelton has not done well against the run over the past couple of seasons according to PFF. Joseph, Goldman, and Lotulelei were inept against the run last year, and Peters wasn’t too much better. Suh wouldn’t sign with the Jets; he wants to win.
Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Eddie Goldman are not ideal but options. Ulbrich seemed to state that he was going with tiny Defensive Tackles, but assured us that they will be tough, well Okay then. Be prepared to be 32nd in run defense.
This is a list of potential options of players who have played or played 0, 1 or 3 Tech and have the size to fill a run stopping role.
I didn’t mention Sheldon Richardson because he is too small, And not all options are ideal which is why the Jets would need to pick the flavor of IDL they want and the price they are willing to spend.
As you said, none of the options are ideal. That’s why I’d go for McClendon.
I would love McClendon…one of my favorite Jets of last decade.
I agree LB has been neglected and I hope we address it before the start of the season. It would be a cherry on top for us and plug our last glaring weakness.
Do you have a particular linebacker in mind?
I was thinking Alexander Johnson for early downs because he is a really good Run stopper. Jamie Collins had a solid year in limited snaps last year. Joe Schobert is not a bad option, imo. And lastly AJ Klein always passed the ye test when we played them so I think he could be solid for us. I the last two did grade as highly with PFF ut I would be going with my eyes on those two.
I agree about Johnson. The question is what his price point will be. Collins has been mediocre-to-below in run defense over the course of his career. Schobert and Klein will depend on how the Jets evaluate them. Regardless, I hope that the Jets look into options who can stop the run instead of totally conceding it.
I included Colins because he graded out very well last year. 76.8 run defense grade, and also had grades of 76.1 and 76.8 for pass rush and pass coverage as well.
True, but as you said, it was in more limited snaps. That’s why I’m looking at his run defense trends over time, which aren’t great.