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.