Home | Articles | Analytics | The ideal snap-count distribution plan for NY Jets D-line

The ideal snap-count distribution plan for NY Jets D-line

Jermaine Johnson, NY Jets, Stats, Snaps
Jermaine Johnson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Robert Saleh and the New York Jets must figure out the best way to deploy snaps across the defensive line

The New York Jets have constructed one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL – but there are only so many snaps to go around. To get the most out of the talent at their disposal, the Jets’ coaching staff must figure out the most effective snap-count distribution plan.

Allow me to submit my proposal. To be clear, this is my preference of how I think the Jets should do it – not my prediction of how I think they will.

Let’s jump right in.

2022 distribution

Looking at the Jets’ snap distribution in 2022 will give us reference points to work off of as we craft our plan for 2023.

We’ll start with the edge rushers. Seen below is a look at the percentage of defensive snaps played by the Jets’ edge rushers from the six post-bye week games in which all six of their top edge rushers were active.

  1. John Franklin-Myers (Played 58% of Jets’ defensive snaps)
  2. Carl Lawson (53%)
  3. Jermaine Johnson (35%)
  4. Micheal Clemons (32%)
  5. Vinny Curry (21%)
  6. Bryce Huff (19%)

I chose this specific sample of games since it seemed like the most representative sample of the unit at full strength. Jacob Martin had been traded by this point, and I isolated the games in which all players were active so the data was not affected by injuries.

It should be noted that Franklin-Myers’ 58% share was split between two positions: he played 71% of his snaps on the edge and 29% on the interior. This means he was actually on the edge for around 41% of the Jets’ defensive snaps and on the interior for 17%.

Clemons played a tiny portion of his snaps on the interior (7%), so he was on the edge for 30% of the Jets’ defensive snaps and on the interior for 2%.

And here is a look at the Jets’ distribution of snaps on the interior from the 12 games in which all four of their top defensive tackles were active and did not leave the game early due to injury:

  1. Quinnen Williams (66%)
  2. Sheldon Rankins (55%)
  3. Nathan Shepherd (33%)
  4. Solomon Thomas (32%)

Finally, let’s take a look at both units side-by-side while also accounting for the interior/edge splits of Franklin-Myers and Clemons:

Edge:

  1. Carl Lawson (53%)
  2. John Franklin-Myers (41%)
  3. Jermaine Johnson (35%)
  4. Micheal Clemons (30%)
  5. Vinny Curry (21%)
  6. Bryce Huff (19%)

Interior:

  1. Quinnen Williams (66%)
  2. Sheldon Rankins (55%)
  3. Nathan Shepherd (33%)
  4. Solomon Thomas (32%)
  5. John Franklin-Myers (17%)
  6. Micheal Clemons (2%)

Now that we have specific numbers to work off of, we can adjust them to create our plan for 2023. We’ll account for the Jets’ additions and losses while allocating deserved boosts and reductions for returning players.

Building the 2023 snap plan: Edge

Five of the Jets’ six primary edge rushers from 2022 are returning, with Vinny Curry being the exception. Curry vacates a 21% snap share from the sample of games we used as a guide.

First-round pick Will McDonald is the Jets’ lone notable addition to the edge unit.

As for the five returning players, my main goal is to create more snaps for Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff. Johnson needs more reps to justify his draft position and have a better opportunity to tap into his potential. Huff is far too good to be playing under 20% of the snaps.

Where will the Jets find those snaps? I have two solutions.

For one, I think the Jets can cut into Carl Lawson’s snaps. Lawson played solid football last year and still deserves to get plenty of reps, but there is more upside to be found in the younger players, so I think it makes sense to relocate some of Lawson’s snaps. The Jets also restructured Lawson’s contract to significantly lower his cap hit, so they’ve already shown they no longer value Lawson as highly as they did when they signed him.

Plus, for Lawson’s sake, playing fewer reps can help him stay healthy and have more juice for each rep that he plays. Lawson was not nearly as efficient in 2022 as he was prior to his 2021 Achilles injury. As Lawson continues his quest to return to full strength, a smaller role could keep him fresh and maximize his effectiveness.

As shown in our 2022 rankings above, Lawson played 53% of the Jets’ snaps when the edge unit was at full strength. I propose cutting him down to 43%. This opens up a 10% share to be deployed elsewhere.

My second solution to open up reps is one that I described in great detail within a recent article: moving Micheal Clemons to defensive tackle.

Check out that article if you want my complete thoughts, but to sum it up, I think Clemons is suited for a smooth transition to the interior. If the Jets agree, moving Clemons inside should be an easy decision. Removing one player from the edge rotation is the best way to open up a huge chunk of snaps for everyone else.

And it doesn’t have to be a full-fledged move inside – Clemons can still kick out to the edge occasionally, specifically in run situations. But I do think he should play the majority of his snaps on the interior.

In my proposal, I have Clemons playing 35% of the Jets’ defensive snaps with an 80%/20% split favoring the interior. This would have him playing 28% of the Jets’ snaps on the interior and 7% on the edge – a 23% decline in edge snaps compared to the 30% share he used in late 2022.

With a 10% reduction for Lawson, a 23% reduction for Clemons, and the removal of Curry’s 21% share, we have a 54% share to split between Johnson, Huff, and McDonald.

I settled on a 14% increase for Huff, a 10% increase for Johnson, and a 30% share for McDonald. As for Franklin-Myers, I have him maintaining the same role he played last year.

Here is my proposal for the Jets’ edge lineup in 2023:

  1. Jermaine Johnson (45%)
  2. Carl Lawson (43%)
  3. John Franklin-Myers (41%)
  4. Bryce Huff (33%)
  5. Will McDonald (30%)
  6. Micheal Clemons (7%)

Admittedly, this is a very rotation-heavy lineup – having no edge player above 50% is rare for an NFL team – but I think that is a smart move to start the year.

Once a few games go by, the Jets can adjust accordingly based on the development of Johnson. If Johnson proves he has taken a substantial leap, the Jets can increase his snap count to a number that is more fitting for the No. 1 player in a rotation. But the Jets shouldn’t force Johnson into a big role until he earns it, which is why I hesitate to put him higher than 45% for the moment. If Johnson hasn’t improved, the Jets can reduce his role and put Lawson back into the forefront.

I also believe that it could make sense for the Jets to go even deeper into their already-heavy preference for rotating. It does two things: one, it allows you to mix and match lineups to put the best players on the field for each particular situation, and two, it keeps everyone extremely fresh. The opposing offensive linemen – who play every snap – will be facing a well-rested player on just about every snap. Not many defenses offer that challenge to opponents.

But the Jets, with their unique depth, are equipped to do so. They’ve got two first-round picks, two solid veteran starters who were signed to eight-figure deals, and the 2022 season’s most efficient edge rusher on a per-snap basis. Most teams give large snap counts to their top players because they simply don’t have more than one or two guys they are high on. The Jets aren’t in that predicament; they have five threatening weapons. So why not use them all? Especially in a way that ensures they are all at maximum energy each time they take the field? It’s a tantalizing idea.

Building the 2023 snap plan: Interior

As a reminder, here is a look at the Jets’ 2022 IDL rotation from the 12 games in which none of the top four defensive tackles missed time:

  1. Quinnen Williams (66%)
  2. Sheldon Rankins (55%)
  3. Nathan Shepherd (33%)
  4. Solomon Thomas (32%)
  5. John Franklin-Myers (17%)
  6. Micheal Clemons (2%)

Among the Jets’ four primary defensive tackles in 2022, only Quinnen Williams and Solomon Thomas will return. Sheldon Rankins (55%) and Nathan Shepherd (33%) are gone, vacating a combined snap share of 88%.

The first order of business is giving more snaps to Quinnen Williams. He played a criminally low number of snaps for a player of his caliber. Plus, the Jets are about to sign him to an enormous contract. It wouldn’t feel like the best allocation of resources to give a contract in the nine-figure neighborhood to a player who is on the field for under 70% of the snaps.

I have Williams jumping up to 73% in my proposal, an increase of 7% from his 66% mark in the guide we established earlier.

That might not seem like much, but it’s more than you think. In 2022, a snap-percentage increase of 7% would have given Williams 79 more snaps over the course of 17 games, or about 4.6 per game. Based on Williams’ per-snap production rates in 2022, he would have turned 79 extra snaps into 1.5 more sacks and six more tackles.

The Jets have two new additions joining the unit: Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods.

Jefferson and Woods are both one-dimensional players who need a specific role for their effectiveness to be maximized. Jefferson is a strong pass rusher but a poor run defender, and vice versa for Woods.

I believe the Jets’ best course of action is to integrate situation-specific rotations for the interior. Substitutions must be made based on pass/run likelihood, as opposed to last year when the Jets essentially had an A-team (Williams/Rankins) and a B-team (Shepherd/Thomas) and would rotate every few drives for rest purposes. Subs weren’t made based on situations. That must change.

I have Jefferson at 35% of the Jets’ defensive snaps and Woods at 30%. Both players will lean heavily toward situations that fit their skill set, which should keep their snap counts to a fairly low number.

As we discussed earlier, I have Clemons joining the interior rotation. He’ll play 35% of the defensive snaps in total, coming on an 80%/20% split favoring the interior, meaning he will be on the interior for 28% of the Jets’ defensive snaps.

If Clemons were to move inside, I would expect the Jets to use him in a balanced fashion, facing both the pass and the run. I see him as a “glue guy” for the defensive tackle rotation; someone who can fill in when needed during any pass or run situation so the Jets can focus on utilizing their other defensive tackles in specific situations.

I have Franklin-Myers maintaining his splits from last year (41% edge, 17% interior). He will kick inside in obvious passing situations.

Finally, I do have Thomas getting some snaps, but I am reducing his role significantly, all the way down to a 15% share. Thomas struggled last year and really shouldn’t be playing too much.

Here is what I have for the Jets’ interior rotation:

  1. Quinnen Williams (73%)
  2. Quinton Jefferson (35%)
  3. Al Woods (30%)
  4. Micheal Clemons (28%)
  5. John Franklin-Myers (17%)
  6. Solomon Thomas (15%)

The main difference between this rotation and the Jets’ 2022 unit is the lack of a second true starter next to Williams. New York did not directly replace Rankins with a player who is capable of playing the same role, so they will have to replace him with a committee approach that is built around situation-based rotations.

If the Jets execute the rotation correctly, this interior unit could be very good. But it remains to be seen whether the Jets can pull it off, as it would be a substantial philosophical departure from the way they managed their interior in 2022. Signing a player like Woods (who is nowhere close to the Jets’ typical archetype for defensive tackles) has me convinced the Jets are willing to make the necessary changes, but we have to see it in action to be sure.

Final look

There you have it: my proposal for distributing snaps across the Jets’ defensive line in 2023.

Edge:

  1. Jermaine Johnson (45%)
  2. Carl Lawson (43%)
  3. John Franklin-Myers (41%)
  4. Bryce Huff (33%)
  5. Will McDonald (30%)
  6. Micheal Clemons (7%)

Interior:

  1. Quinnen Williams (73%)
  2. Quinton Jefferson (35%)
  3. Al Woods (30%)
  4. Micheal Clemons (28%)
  5. John Franklin-Myers (17%)
  6. Solomon Thomas (15%)

Total:

  • Quinnen Williams (73%)
  • John Franklin-Myers (58%)
  • Jermaine Johnson (45%)
  • Carl Lawson (43%)
  • Quinton Jefferson (35%)
  • Micheal Clemons (35%)
  • Bryce Huff (33%)
  • Al Woods (30%)
  • Will McDonald (30%)
  • Solomon Thomas (15%)

With this lineup, the Jets manage to find bigger roles for three players who deserve them (Williams, Johnson, Huff) while still creating a reasonably sized role for their first-round rookie. The costs of doing business are the positional change of Clemons, the role reduction for Lawson, and an even greater reliance on rotation than the Jets were already using.

If the Jets want to give everyone a fair role, these costs seem necessary. Reversing any one of those three things (Clemons’ change, Lawson’s reduction, and the overall rotation-heavy style) would require minimizing someone like Williams, Johnson, Huff, or McDonald into a role that most would view as too small for that particular player.

Most likely, I think the Jets will be more decisive than I was with my predictions. In other words, I think they will make the tough decisions that I mostly avoided. They will craft a lineup that more closely matches their 2022 structure at the cost of burying a player or two, rather than making sweeping changes to ensure everyone gets a fair shake as I did.

Whether it’s keeping Johnson or Huff in their previous roles, limiting McDonald to a role that would seem incredibly small for a first-round pick, or keeping Williams below 70%, my hunch is the Jets will make at least one decision on the defensive line that will puzzle some fans.

As much as I like my proposed lineup, it could be an admittedly difficult one to manage because of its intention to give meaningful snaps to so many players. It also requires significant adjustments from the Jets’ past tendencies.

Nevertheless, if I were tasked with crafting this lineup, this is how I would do it.

Want More Jet X?

Subscribe to become a Jet X Member to unlock every piece of Jets X-Factor content (film breakdowns, analytics, Sabo with the Jets, etc.), get audio versions of each article, receive the ability to comment within our community, and experience an ad-free platform experience.

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Android (Google Play) device.

Sign up for Jet X Daily, our daily newsletter that's delivered to your inbox every morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed and/or find us on Apple News to stay updated with the New York Jets.

Follow us on X (Formerly Twitter) @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Related Articles

About the Author

More From Author

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
3 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Matt Galemmo
1 year ago

I think the Jets got Jefferson to be the obvious passing down tackle. If not, I think he’s a healthy scratch, waiting for an injury. There just aren’t enough obvious passing down situations to split them between JFM and Jefferson, at least not when you can carry another player. Clemons’ versatility allows them to handle an in-game injury, so I see JJ, Huff, WMD and Lawson for the edge, Q, Woods, Clemons and unfortunately Thomas for the interior, and JFM for both.

I would much rather have Jefferson active than Thomas, but when you consider JFM is playing on passing downs…well, I guess I would rather have Thomas than Jefferson for running downs.

So if you’ve got Q with 70% and JFM with 30% on the inside, then maybe you have Clemons on not-obvious running downs, Woods on running downs, and Thomas when someone needs a break.

nrwyman
1 year ago

I favor rotations of 4 players on the edge and 4 players on the interior as a starting point yielding a 50% role for each. If you have more than 4 players for each role that, based on ability, justify a substantial role you are wasting resources that could be applied elsewhere. For starters, I would eliminate Solomon Thomas from the rotation. I don’t see what he could contribute over JFM or Michael Clem. Take Thomas’ 17% and distribute it between JFM and Clemons. I would then reduce Clemons’ role on the edge. I’d want to see an increase in the playing times of Lawson, Huff, and McDonald.

Jonathan Richter
1 year ago
Reply to  nrwyman

I agree with a base 8 man rotation, 4 on the inside and 4 on the outside, although We have too many great outside players for them to sit on the bench completely. Not only would I eliminate Thomas from the rotation, I would also reduce the snaps for Woods and Jefferson from where Nania has them. In addition to kicking Clemons inside more, I would also kick JFM inside more. I would then limit Q to 70% at most. It’s not only keeping him fresher through the game, it’s keeping him fresher in December and January, when I very well might ask him to play 75% of the snaps of more. Moving JFM also allows you to give back some snaps back to Lawson. I would not have him playing less than 50% of the snaps.

Here’s my breakdown:

Outside
Lawson 55%
Johnson 50%
Huff 27.5%
WMD 27.5%
JFM 20%
Clemons 20%

Inside
Quinnen 70%
JFM 40%
Clemons 40%
Woods 25%
Jefferson 25%

This is putting our best players on the field the most. Clemons and JFM are way better than either Jefferson or Woods and should be on the field more as a result.

3
0
REPLY TO THIS ARTICLE HERE:x
()
x