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The NY Jets’ defensive line has found its ‘Core Four’

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets, NFL, Stats, Sacks, Pass Rush
Quinnen Williams, New York Jets, Getty Images

A terrifying quartet is emerging for the New York Jets’ defensive line

The New York Jets‘ vaunted defensive line is finally living up to the hype. Over the past two weeks, New York’s pass-rush has racked up six sacks and a whopping 25 quarterback hits, helping the Jets’ defense allow only 13.5 points per game.

Numerous players are contributing to the outburst. But there is one particular four-man combination that is producing utterly dominant results for New York:

The Jets have found the “Core Four” of their pass-rush. (I’m aptly nicknaming it as such in the spirit of tonight’s Game 5 for the New York Yankees. Sorry, Mets fans.)

This devastating lineup features the Jets’ three best overall defensive linemen – Franklin-Myers, Williams, and Lawson – paired up with Huff, who is their best pure pass rusher outside of the aforementioned trio and is arguably the most explosive defensive lineman on the team. Franklin-Myers’s edge/interior versatility allows him to slide inside on passing downs and open up a spot for Huff on the edge.

New York pulls out this combination in obvious passing situations. All of the quartet’s plays together have come in one of three scenarios: third/fourth down with 4+ yards to go, second down with 20+ yards to go, or a catch-up situation late in the fourth quarter where the opponent is passing on every play regardless of the down-and-distance.

Since Huff made his season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, the Jets have deployed the Huff-JFM-Williams-Lawson combo on 26 snaps. Every single one of those snaps was a passing play.

And most of those plays amounted to nothing for the opposing offense.

The Jets are getting incredible results when their Core Four is on the field. Across 26 plays with that combo on the field, the Jets have allowed only six first downs and 147 yards. That’s a conversion rate of 23.1% a yards-per-play rate of 5.7.

This combination is playing more each week, and they’re improving each week, too:

  • Week 4 at Steelers: 3 first downs allowed on 7 plays (42.9%)
  • Week 5 vs. Dolphins: 2 first downs allowed on 9 plays (22.2%)
  • Week 6 at Packers: 1 first down allowed on 10 plays (10.0%)

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

New York has picked up three sacks over 26 plays with the Core Four on the field, which is a stellar rate of 11.5%. All three sacks were recorded by a Core Four member: Williams and Franklin-Myers split one sack and each picked up a solo sack of their own. Huff’s edge pressure helped force the QB to step up on two of those sacks. Lawson helped tee up Williams’s sack with great penetration on a stunt.

In addition to the three sacks, the Jets knocked down the QB on five other plays with their Core Four on the field. Huff picked up two of those hits while Williams, Franklin-Myers, and Lawson each have one hit.

That gives the Jets eight knockdowns on 26 plays – an outstanding rate of 30.8%. To put that into perspective, the NFL average across all plays this season is 15.5%.

Coming into the year, it was clear that the Jets defense wanted to win games on the strength of its pass rush. Now, they are finally accomplishing that goal, and it all starts with the unblockable combination of Huff, Franklin-Myers, Williams, and Lawson.

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1 year ago

Michael, you called the team out for over rotation and for playing Huff. Bingo, the line starts producing more. Any other ideas?

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

I’m on board with moving Moore to the slot, where he belongs.

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 year ago

The Core Four !!! I really like that nickname.

Peter Buell
1 year ago

All I will say is

1 year ago

And I was one who thought Huff might be replaceable, boy was I all wrong about him. The DL playing the way they did yesterday validates the philosophy AND shows they can adapt. The snap counts have been adjusted and they are starting to gel as a unit.

Joe and Saleh have said from day 1 they are building from the trenches and the last two games are perfect example of why.