John Franklin-Myers, NY Jets, DT Stats, EDGE Stats
John Franklin-Myers, New York Jets, Getty Images

John Franklin-Myers played well for the New York Jets in 2022, but his ideal position is under question once more

The life of a tweener in the NFL is usually ever-evolving.

Coaching staff changes, personnel fluctuations, scheme alterations, and injuries will often have such players switching back and forth, sometimes with regularity.

John Franklin-Myers of the New York Jets is a classic tweener. At 6-foot-4 and 289 pounds, he is large for an edge rusher but small for an interior defensive lineman. He has played at both positions in his time with the Jets, demonstrating the advantages and disadvantages of his play at each.

Ultimately, the Jets settled him primarily on the outside in 2022, kicking him inside on third down. Overall, he played 29% of his snaps inside and 71% outside. JFM played extremely effectively in that role, showcasing his dominant edge-setting while still proving a disruptive pass-rushing presence.

However, with the selection of Will McDonald IV in the first round of the draft, the Jets now have an edge conundrum. They have a six-deep edge rotation, but all of those players are worthy of a significant role in the team’s defense.

That reopens the seemingly settled question for 2023: where should the Jets play JFM?

Thinner DT rotation

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Jets currently have a thinner rotation at defensive tackle, with only three players who would be projected to make the 53-man roster. Quinnen Williams is the team’s only true starter at the position.

Quinton Jefferson is a pass-rushing specialist, while Solomon Thomas did not do much of anything in either the run or pass game last season. Tanzel Smart is a depth piece, but the Jets clearly do not consider him a truly rosterable player.

While the Jets are likely to sign Al Woods or another available DT for depth in run defense, one way they could solve their edge crunch is by moving JFM inside more often. Franklin-Myers is a dominant interior pass rusher, which is why the Jets moved him inside on third downs.

Dominant pass-rushing DT

As stated before, JFM absolutely dominates guards in pass-rushing situations. Going back to the 2020 season, when he played 76.6% of his snaps inside, he had a 14.4% pressure rate, which ranked third among interior defensive linemen. That was 105.7% better than the 2020 league average for IDL (7.0%).

In fact, the very same reason that the Jets drafted McDonald could compel them to move JFM inside more often, as well. Robert Saleh alluded to the fact that the team expects to be playing with more leads in 2023, and they needed finishers on defense.

These were JFM’s statistics in true pass sets in 2022. Considering that most of his work in true pass sets came from the DT position, here’s how his numbers ranked among 66 qualified interior defensive linemen (min. 250 pass rush snaps):

  • 21.8% pressure rate (1st)
  • 5.9% sack plus hit rate (16th)
  • 28.1% pass rush win rate (2nd)

In other words, if the Jets need a finisher, JFM is that—especially from the defensive tackle position.

Other quality edge setters

One of the reasons the Jets like Franklin-Myers on the edge is due to his truly dominant edge-setting. As Michael Nania broke down, JFM was the single most important player in the Jets’ run defense, even if it didn’t always show up in the box score. While his 5.9% stop rate ranked 32nd out of 70 qualified edge defenders (min. 180 run defense snaps), his impact was far more profound in terms of squeezing gaps and not allowing offensive linemen to gain leverage.

However, JFM was not the Jets’ only good edge defender in the run game. Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons, in particular, showed their value as edge-setters. Johnson got off to a slow start in this area but demonstrated his high-end run defense as the season went on. Although unqualified, the pair posted 9.8% (94th percentile) and 8.1% (87th percentile) stop rates, respectively.

Even Carl Lawson was far better in this area than his box score stats would indicate. If the Jets do keep him on the team, he is still reliable enough on the edge as a run defender.

If the Jets want to maximize their edge-setting, they don’t need Franklin-Myers to do it.

Edge pass rush vs. run defense

That being said, neither Johnson nor Clemons showed much as a pass rusher in 2022. Their pass rush win rates were 13.8% (43rd percentile) and 11.5% (24th), while their pressure rates were 9.3% (21st percentile) and 9% (19th percentile). The Jets might want more thump from their pass rushers on the edge.

To contrast, the Jets have another pair of edge rushers who profile as pass-rush specialists. Bryce Huff dominated the league in limited action last year, posting a 28% pass rush win rate (second-best) and 20.8% pressure rate (first). McDonald, meanwhile, was second among all qualified FBS edge rushers with a 45.8% pass rush win rate on true pass sets.

The problem for the Jets is that JFM is the team’s best two-way edge defender, even though he’s also a more dominant interior pass rusher. Putting in Johnson as the strong side edge weakens the pass rush while inserting Huff is a detriment to the run defense.

The Jets must decide whether they’d prefer to have JFM eat up those snaps at the strong side edge. If so, it will limit Johnson’s and Huff’s snaps, assuming that the team continues to specialize these three on the left side of the defensive line. However, considering Huff’s dominance as an edge rusher and Johnson’s first-round billing, it’s questionable whether they want to operate this way.

Weaker interior run defense

Another wrinkle is that JFM is not as strong as an interior run defender. In 2020, when JFM played primarily inside, he posted just a 4.3% stop rate on 143 run defense snaps, which ranked 86th out of 104 interior linemen (18th percentile). He also posted three missed tackles compared to just 13 total tackles for an 18.8% miss rate (5th percentile).

This makes sense given JFM’s smaller size. The same size that allows him to pin tackles in run defense leverage is too small in the interior, making him susceptible to double-teams and unable to hold his ground.

Will the Jets sacrifice JFM’s weaker run defense inside in favor of his pass-rushing? The answer in 2022 was no, but now there’s yet another player deserving a nice chunk of snaps in the edge rotation.

McDonald over Kancey

The fact that the Jets selected McDonald over DT Calijah Kancey also may give a sneak peek into the Jets’ thinking. Kancey, at 6-foot-1 and 281 pounds, is a shorter version of JFM: a dominant interior pass rusher who struggled to maintain leverage in the run game. Kancey was actually mocked to the Jets at No. 15 fairly often before he was selected by the Buccaneers at No. 19.

Perhaps the Jets chose the edge rusher over the defensive tackle because Kancey’s skills are more redundant for the team than McDonald’s. The Jets did not have an edge rusher with the level of bend and explosiveness that McDonald displays, but they did have a penetrating defensive tackle.

Then again, maybe the Jets didn’t take Kancey because they’re prioritizing interior run defense. That would preclude moving JFM inside more often.

What’s best?

A lot of this comes down to whether the Jets do actually play with more leads. If there are more true pass sets, there’s no question JFM will kick inside more often, which solves the edge crunch in and of itself. A potential defensive line (from strong to weak side) of Huff, JFM, Williams, and McDonald could truly be the most dominant pass-rushing foursome in the NFL, bar none.

Realistically, though, even if the Jets play with more leads, they will still be left with plenty of run/pass situations that do not lead to specialization. Personally, my preference has always been to prioritize pass rush, even if it comes at the expense of run defense. The NFL is a pass-first league. With 11 personnel still dominating the league, most teams are playing nickel on a regular basis, which is a pass-first defense.

If the Jets truly want to make sure that their run defense is more secure, they could play Clemons and Johnson at the edges in nickel while also kicking JFM inside. At the minimum, this would ensure a better edge.

Furthermore, Jefferson is a very poor run defender, but he is a strong pass rusher. The Jets don’t want to end up playing Woods (or whichever other run-stuffing DT they sign) for more snaps than he’s actually worth, which would minimize the work of the other players they have.

As good as Jefferson is as an interior pass rusher (11.67% pressure rate in 2022), Franklin-Myers can be even better, as explained above. Why not play JFM inside if there’s going to be a weaker run defender there at times, anyway?

Snap count divide

This would be the way I would divide the Jets’ defensive line snap count, give or take some snaps, assuming that Lawson is still on the team.

  • Williams: 70% (2022: 60.6%)
  • Jefferson: 36% (2022 Rankins: 49.0%)
  • New DT: 38% (2022 Nathan Shepherd: 36.6%)
  • Solomon Thomas: 23% (2022: 33.0%)
  • Franklin-Myers: 60% total – 27% edge, 33% interior (2022: 56.5%)
  • Lawson: 45% (2022: 58.3%)
  • Johnson: 40% (2022: 27.4%)
  • McDonald: 30% (2022 Curry + Martin: 29.7%)
  • Clemons: 32% (2022: 27.3%)
  • Huff: 26% (2022: 16.8%)

This projection might need to be adjusted a bit to account for the Jets’ strong/weak side preferences for their edge rushers, but the general idea remains. This would have Franklin-Myers more evenly split his time inside and outside, both providing insurance to the thinner interior depth and also freeing up snaps on the edge for other players.

What do you think, Jets fans? How should the Jets use their defensive line rotation? More importantly, how will they do so?

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

I agree, I would kick JFM inside more. I would play Lawson less, although I’d stay around 50% while you went down to 45%. Play Q more.

We’re going to wreck some passing games this year. #1 D in the league.

1 month ago

Good article, I like the breakdown. When I saw the pick of McDonald, I thought many of the things you presented on the article would occur. So I definitely agree we will see more JFM inside and hopefully a lot less Solomon Thomas.