With the recent media exposure surrounding Quinnen Williams’s usage, the problem isn’t limited to him
John Franklin-Myers got his money from the New York Jets.
If he was still waiting for a contract, though, he would surely be frustrated with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich for the way he’s been used so far this year.
After performing as one of the Jets’ best players in 2021, JFM has been pretty quiet thus far in 2022. He’s been largely invisible on the scoresheet, racking up only four total pressures in 55 pass rush snaps for a 7.3% pressure rate that is significantly below average for an edge rusher and far below his 12.3% rate from last year (79th percentile among edge rushers).
Now, part of that is on Franklin-Myers. He’s simply not playing as well as he did last year, and his quiet start has mirrored that of the Jets’ defensive line as a whole. He was invisible on the scoresheet and on film against the Bengals, putting up zeros and allowing Joe Burrow to get out of the pocket on more than one occasion.
However, there are two more pieces to the story: the amount that Franklin-Myers has been used, and the way he’s been used. Both of those conspire to put JFM in a less-than-ideal position for him to succeed.
We’ve already been over this with Quinnen Williams: the Jets are implementing their desired defensive line rotation, and it’s hurting their team.
JFM is averaging 31.7 defensive snaps per game through three weeks. He’s participated in less than half of the Jets’ defensive snaps (49.8%).
While JFM missed some time during the Browns game with an injury, his snap counts in the other games were not that high, either. Against the Ravens in the opening game, JFM played 28 out of 56 defensive snaps, precisely 50%. That number may make some sense for the run-heavy Ravens, his size made him a liability in setting the edge against the speed of Lamar Jackson.
However, in Week 3 against the pass-heavy Bengals, Franklin-Myers played 36 of the 68 total defensive snaps. The 52.9% rate is difficult to fathom for a guy who was arguably his team’s best player last year and has a $12.5 million cap hit this season.
Meanwhile, Carl Lawson, whose tape is unimpressive thus far, played 45 snaps against the Bengals. The Jets seem to be subbing out Franklin-Myers more often than Lawson despite JFM’s superior run-stopping on the edge.
Last season, Franklin-Myers averaged 42 snaps per game (60.2% of defensive plays), but the Jets had no depth behind him. This season, they supposedly have depth on the edge, which would seem to limit his snaps.
It may make some sense that Franklin-Myers is coming off the field more often, as first-round pick Jermaine Johnson is his primary backup. Johnson has been solid against the run but practically invisible in pass rush, with a 6.8% pressure rate (2 pressures in 29 pass rush snaps).
However, Lawson’s primary backup, Micheal Clemons, has similar numbers (2 pressures in 31 pass rush snaps). Jacob Martin, who backs up on both edges, has a 15.5% pressure rate listed, which isn’t backed up on film.
It seems that Martin is replacing Franklin-Myers more often than Lawson. Why?
More than snap count, though, it is how the Jets are using Franklin-Myers that is really perplexing and maddening.
The Jets’ edge depth is better than their defensive tackle depth. Behind Quinnen Williams, who is enjoying a dominant start to 2022 despite relatively limited playing time compared to other top DTs, the Jets have a hodgepodge of below-average interior linemen.
In 2020, Franklin-Myers broke out with the Jets while playing primarily on the defensive interior, recording 76.6% of his snaps inside. On 353 pass-rush snaps, JFM recorded 51 pressures, giving him a 14.4% pressure rate that was more than double the league average for IDL (7.0%). That’s seriously elite-level production; for reference, Aaron Donald’s pressure rate in the 2021 season was 13.0% (though he was at 17.2% in 2020).
Franklin-Myers is oversized for an edge rusher. He’s listed at 6’4″, 289, making him one of the biggest edge defenders in the NFL. His 4.75 40-yard dash and 4.48 20-yard shuttle are below average for edge rushers, to be expected at his size. Franklin-Myers is therefore at somewhat of an athletic disadvantage from the edge.
True, he was able to put up above-average pressure numbers last season due to his technique and power, but he’s not quite as effective there.
From the interior, however, JFM is a powerhouse. His lighter frame allows him to speed past guards and centers and wreak havoc up the middle. It showed in 2020.
The Jets have a potentially elite 1-2 punch up the middle sitting in front of their noses, and they’re passing it up. Franklin-Myers has played just 23 of his 95 snaps (24.2%) inside this season. Most of those 23 plays had him head-up against the tackle; only five of them (5.3%) came lined up in the B gap, which is where he is really at his best.
Though JFM is a weaker run defender from the inside than he is from the edge, it’s not as if the Jets’ interior linemen other than Quinnen Williams are any better: Solomon Thomas (28.0), Sheldon Rankins (34.4), and Nathan Shepherd (46.8) all posted worse PFF run grades last season than Franklin-Myers (57.1) did in 2020.
During the offseason, Jets X-Factor columnist Oliver Cochrane predicted that Franklin-Myers would have a monster season on the inside. I predicted that he’d lead the Jets in sacks with the same assumption. Instead, the Jets keep him languishing on the outside, where he can be good but is not nearly as dominant.
Jeff Ulbrich’s seat is already getting a bit warm after the perception that he called out Quinnen Williams in the media. But his usage of another one of his defensive leaders is equally if not more confounding. It’s something to keep an eye on as the Jets’ overall coaching is under the spotlight for the underwhelming performances on both sides of the ball.
The Jets have the talent to be a lot better than this. It’s time to maximize the team’s skill players. It’s time to move John Franklin-Myers back inside.