John Franklin-Myers greatly aids the New York Jets’ defense with this subtle skill
New York Jets fans often plead for John Franklin-Myers to be moved back to defensive tackle on a full-time basis. Franklin-Myers broke out in 2020 as a defensive tackle, rushing the passer at an elite level for an interior defensive lineman. But since the start of 2021, Franklin-Myers has played most of his snaps on the edge while only moving inside for obvious passing situations.
Franklin-Myers has remained a solid pass rusher on the edge, but he is not quite as effective from the outside as he is on the interior. Here are his pressure totals and pressure rates over the past three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus:
- 2020 (IDL): 51 pressures on 353 pass-rush snaps = 14.5% pressure rate (3rd of 91 qualified IDL, min. 200 pass-rush snaps)
- 2021 (EDGE): 53 pressures on 431 pass-rush snaps = 12.3% pressure rate (20th of 90 qualified EDGE, min. 200 pass-rush snaps)
- 2022 (EDGE): 51 pressures on 379 pass-rush snaps = 13.5% pressure rate (22nd of 99 qualified EDGE, min. 200 pass-rush snaps)
It’s undeniable that Franklin-Myers is still a very good pass rusher in his new role, but he was much further ahead of his peers as an interior pass rusher.
Consider that the 2020 league-average pressure rate for interior defensive linemen was 7.0% and the 2022 league-average pressure rate for edge rushers was 10.8%. This means that in 2020, Franklin-Myers’ 14.5% pressure rate was 7.5% above the positional average, and in 2022, his 13.5% pressure rate was 2.7% above the positional average – not nearly as dominant.
With these numbers in mind, it is not unreasonable to claim that Franklin-Myers should be playing most or all of his reps on the interior.
But there’s a key factor in this equation that cannot be forgotten: Franklin-Myers’ highly underrated run defense.
This is the equalizer in the Franklin-Myers discussion. On the inside, Franklin-Myers’ run defense is mediocre at best. But on the edge, his run defense is outstanding. And that’s why the Jets prefer to use Franklin-Myers on the edge for most of his snaps: He is above average against both the pass and the run. When he lines up there, he will never be a liability, no matter the situation.
Franklin-Myers’ impact against the run is far greater than he gets credit for. In my charting of every run-defense snap played by the Jets’ defense in 2022, where I doled out positive and negative credit to individual defenders on each play, I had Franklin-Myers as the third-most valuable run defender on the team.
Franklin-Myers’ talent as a run defender goes largely overlooked because of its subtlety. Most of his work is done in the shadows. He doesn’t make many stops himself, which means it is hard to notice his impact while watching games and he also does not post gaudy box-score stats.
In 2022, Franklin-Myers only had four tackles for loss and 38 total tackles. When it comes to PFF’s “run stops” stat – which tracks the number of tackles against the run that constituted a “failure” for the offense – Franklin-Myers only had 12, tying him for 51st among edge defenders.
It’s Franklin-Myers’ hidden impact that makes him so good against the run. While he does not make a ton of stops himself, he is extremely adept at teeing up run stops for his teammates. Franklin-Myers sets a strong edge, causes destructive penetration, and reads plays well. By doing the little things right, Franklin-Myers consistently shuts down running lanes to the outside, redirecting runners toward the traffic in the middle.
Let’s watch some examples of Franklin-Myers’ hidden impact against the run. Each play seen below is a stuffed run by the Jets’ defense in which Franklin-Myers did not get credit for the tackle but was instrumental in making the stop happen.
John Franklin-Myers’ run defense film
Lined up as the 6-tech (head-up over the TE), Franklin-Myers blows up the Ravens’ blocking scheme to create an easy tackle opportunity for Quincy Williams. The play is a great example of Franklin-Myers’ 288-pound frame making him a major mismatch for tight ends. Watch how Franklin-Myers pushes the TE back and knocks him into the pulling left guard (#72), which prevents the left guard from getting outside to Williams.
Here, the TE attempts to pin Franklin-Myers inside, and Franklin-Myers uses a rip move with his inside arm to maintain leverage and create vertical penetration into the backfield. Franklin-Myers knocks into the right guard, freeing up Sheldon Rankins to make the tackle.
Franklin-Myers plows through the TE’s attempted chip and takes on the sixth offensive lineman. Franklin-Myers jabs two hands into the blocker’s upper body, splashing him back. The right tackle comes over to help, but Franklin-Myers continues to keep hands-on, remain balanced, and string the run to the outside. With Franklin-Myers eating up two blockers, C.J. Mosley remains untouched and is able to shoot the gap for the stop.
The TE leaves Franklin-Myers unblocked for the pulling RG to pick him up. Franklin-Myers diagnoses the action and prepares to take on the RG, positioning himself to drive the RG outside and funnel the runner back inside. Franklin-Myers extends his inside arm into the RG’s chest and lands firm contact. With control of the battle, Franklin-Myers takes a hard outside angle to beat the runner outside. In the process, Franklin-Myers gets in the way of the pulling center, preventing him from blocking anyone.
Ultimately, not only does Franklin-Myers successfully get outside and influence the runner to go back inside, but since he also got in the center’s way, Franklin-Myers was able to free up an unblocked Jordan Whitehead and Sauce Gardner.
We see another example of Franklin-Myers being an unfair matchup for tight ends. He overpowers the TE using a jab to the chest with his inside arm, blasting the TE inside and clogging the C-gap. Franklin-Myers pushes the TE so far inside that he trips the pulling LG, causing the LG to whiff on his attempted block of Mosley. The runner goes straight into a brick wall.
Random thought: When you’re watching a game on TV and you see a runner plod into a giant clump of humanity for no gain, it feels very anticlimactic to watch. This is because it’s almost impossible to see how exactly the clump was created. Everything happens so quickly and the camera’s parallel angle to the line of scrimmage makes it difficult to perceive individual battles. But it’s a lot of fun to rewatch the end-zone angle of the All-22 film and pinpoint the exact little one-on-one moments that create those brick walls of human beings.
This is a good play by Franklin-Myers, but I figured it was worth noting that the play also displays some of the physical limitations that give him a lower ceiling as a pass rusher on the edge than on the interior.
Franklin-Myers does an excellent job of reading and anticipating this jet sweep. Seeing it the whole way, Franklin-Myers defeats the TE’s hands, keeps his eyes on the runner, and shoots downhill to try and cut the runner off. Franklin-Myers misses the tackle – displaying the lack of bend and open-field agility that are byproducts of being a 288-pound edge defender – but his effort is still enough to blow up the play. Franklin-Myers slows down the runner significantly and buys plenty of time for his teammates to rally.
Franklin-Myers thwarts another jet sweep, even if he again fails to make the tackle himself. He gets ahead of the runner, forcing him to retreat six yards behind the line of scrimmage while significantly bending to the outside.
The right tackle tries to pin Franklin-Myers inside. He is in an advantageous position to do so, as he takes an outside step while Franklin-Myers goes downhill. However, Franklin-Myers erases the advantage. He beats the RT so cleanly and quickly with a club-rip move that he is able to run through the block entirely and reach the RB at the moment he takes the handoff. Franklin-Myers creates vertical penetration that forces the runner to hop backward and retreat toward the sideline. Mosley chases him down for the stop.
The TE leaves Franklin-Myers unblocked for the pulling LG to pick him up. Franklin-Myers immediately diagnoses the action and begins gearing down, preparing to lower his shoulder and take on the block. At the contact point, Franklin-Myers wins the battle as he not only stops the LG in his tracks but knocks him back a bit. The C-gap is clogged and the Jets stuff the run.
Keep JFM’s stellar run defense in mind when discussing him. It’s one of the most underappreciated individual talents of any player on the New York Jets.