Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Quote, Head Coach
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

At last, the heart and soul of the New York Jets’ defense played up to its sky-high potential

Jets fans have been hearing it ever since Robert Saleh set foot at One Jets Drive: The New York Jets‘ defense will be built around its pass rush.

The Jets’ pass rush had high expectations in 2021, but it never got rolling due to injuries to some of the team’s top pass rushers. Come 2022, expectations for the unit were pushed back through the roof thanks to the return of a healthy Carl Lawson and new additions such as Jermaine Johnson, Jacob Martin, and Solomon Thomas.

It seems like we are finally starting to see this unit play to its utmost potential.

New York’s pass rush incrementally improved over the first four weeks of the year. In Week 5, everything came together. The Jets exploded for a thoroughly dominant pass rushing performance, playing a primary role in the team’s 40-17 win over Miami.

Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson was pressured on 60.0% of his dropbacks, which is the highest rate absorbed by a qualified quarterback in any game this season. Across 35 dropbacks, Thompson was pressured 21 times, knocked down 16 times, and sacked twice.

That is the dominance Jets fans want to see out of Saleh’s defense.

It was a team effort by New York’s defensive front. Multiple players contributed to the utter destruction of Miami’s offensive line.

But it all started with the man who is supposed to be the leader of this pass rush: edge rusher Carl Lawson.

Lawson gave Jets fans perhaps the best performance they have seen from an edge rusher since John Abraham wore green. He racked up seven quarterback hits, setting a new franchise record since the stat was first tracked in 2006. Overall, Lawson had eight pressures, ranking second among all NFL edge rushers in Week 5 (pre-Monday Night Football). The highlight of Lawson’s day was a strip-sack recovered by Quinnen Williams.

Speaking of Williams, he continued adding to what is becoming an All-Pro-caliber resume. Williams collected six pressures, tied for the second-most among interior defensive linemen in Week 5 so far.

However, it was not Williams who ranked second on the team in pressures behind Lawson. It was John Franklin-Myers. JFM picked up seven pressures, which includes five quarterback hits. His total of five QB hits ties him for the second-best mark by a Jet in the stat’s 17-season history.

Franklin-Myers’s best moment was a subtle one. On Sauce Gardner‘s first career interception, Franklin-Myers’s hit on Thompson led to the ball being underthrown, which bought Gardner time to undercut the pass and pick it off.

New York’s big-three of Lawson, Williams, and Franklin-Myers came up huge. But the quiet engine behind all of this success was a man who only played 15 snaps: Bryce Huff.

Huff racked up four pressures on just 15 pass-rush snaps to earn a stellar pressure of 26.7%, leading the team. Through two games, Huff has seven pressures on only 24 pass-rush snaps, giving him a pressure rate of 29.2% that ranks second-best among all edge rushers over the past two weeks.

Huff is finding a niche in the Jets’ defense as a pure pass-rush specialist. The Jets are only putting him on the field in obvious passing situations. All 24 of his defensive snaps this season came on a passing play.

New York’s plan for Huff is working like a charm. Every time he takes the field, Huff has a full tank of gas and completely empties it. He has the luxury of doing this since he knows he will get multiple plays of rest after every rep.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Huff has an average get-off time of 0.58 seconds this season, which is the fastest in the league among edge rushers. Carl Lawson ranks two spots behind him at 0.69 seconds while Myles Garrett checks in at second (technically first if we used a reasonable snap-count qualifier) with 0.68 seconds.

Jacob Martin played a season-low 11 snaps in this game and actually benefited from the demotion as he performed with better efficiency. Martin picked up two pressures on only six pass-rush snaps.

Sheldon Rankins also contributed a pair of pressures while Sauce Gardner, Micheal Clemons, and Nathan Shepherd had one apiece.

Good things happen when you make the opposing quarterback’s life miserable.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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11 months ago

To give credence to this breakout, this unit needs to repeat this against the QBs they’ll face in their next 4 games. Then we’ll know if they’ve really turned that corner.

11 months ago

I have been as big a doubter as anyone w/ regard to Lawson, great to see him and the rest of the D Line apply pressure. Though I would point out that on the strip sack he beat Gesecki, not a tackle.
With the defense we play a good pass rush is essential.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
11 months ago

We have a tough assignment coming up Sunday with an angry Green Bay Packer team beaten in London by our co-tenants.
If we can get similar pressure on Aaron Rodgers and wlimiate the 3rd down PI
penalties (deserved or not) we have a shot at this game.
That’s something noone would have dared even think before the season.
Despite a ridiculously difficult schedule given to a 4 win team, I projected 8 wins.
Still think we might be a year away from any playoff thoughts, 8 or more wins will be a huge improvement from last year.
I’ll keep saying I didn’t get the Breece Hall pickwith Carter playing so well when healthy, but I’m so happy he’s here and I’m proven wrong.
What makes this ai much fun is there are so many bigtime plays from the “diaper dandies”