The New York Jets hang their hats on these specific individual abilities
Today, we’ll be ranking the top 10 specific individual skills owned by players on the New York Jets. For the sake of this article, each player will be limited to only one skill appearing on the list (otherwise, it would be dominated by Aaron Rodgers).
Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
10. John Franklin-Myers’ interior pass rushing
Franklin-Myers was one of the NFL’s best interior pass rushers when he played defensive tackle for the Jets in 2020. According to PFF, Franklin-Myers had 51 pressures (8th among IDL) on 353 pass-rush snaps (30th). His 14.4% pressure rate ranked third-best at the position behind only Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Donald.
Since 2021, Franklin-Myers has primarily lined up on the edge for New York, as it appears the Jets believe he is a better two-way player at that position. However, the Jets have still moved Franklin-Myers inside on passing downs, with great results.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Franklin-Myers rushed from the interior on 112 snaps in 2022. He recorded 14 pressures on those plays, resulting in a 12.5% pressure rate that ranked eighth-best among the 136 players with at least 100 pass-rush snaps from the interior.
9. Micheal Clemons’ run defense on the edge
Micheal Clemons bulked up to 290 pounds this offseason and appears to be headed for an increase in snaps on the interior. Exactly how often he plays on the interior remains to be seen.
There are many reasons giving Clemons more snaps on the interior is an appealing idea for the Jets. But the Jets should make sure they still utilize Clemons on the edge in rushing situations, as his edge-setting was phenomenal in 2022.
PFF rated Clemons with the best run defense grade of any edge defender in the NFL at 86.4. That might seem slightly preposterous at first, but after rewatching the film of every run defense snap from the Jets’ defense in 2022, I don’t think PFF is too far off-base here.
I charted Clemons with a 3.7-to-1 ratio of positive plays to negative plays in the run game, which was the best mark among New York’s routinely-used defensive players by a wide margin. No other player on the team was better than 2.4-to-1. And the Jets had a lot of good run defenders on the team, so that gap between Clemons and his teammates makes it clear how good Clemons was against the run.
8. D.J. Reed’s big-play prevention
D.J. Reed has been one of the NFL’s cornerbacks at preventing yardage for two consecutive seasons. It’s a crime that he has not made the Pro Bowl yet.
With the Seahawks in 2021, Reed was tagged with allowing 0.63 yards per cover snap, which ranked sixth-best out of 96 qualified cornerbacks. In 2022, Reed was elite once again as he placed seventh-best out of 82 qualified cornerbacks with 0.71 yards per cover snap. Reed allowed just 467 yards over 17 games (27.5 per game) and 659 coverage snaps.
Reed did a fantastic job of disallowing massive chunks of yardage in his first season with the Jets. The longest catch he was charged with allowing was a 35-yard needle-threader from Aaron Rodgers to Allen Lazard in Week 6. Other than that, Reed’s longest catch allowed went for only 20 yards. He finished the season allowing a paltry 5.6 yards per target (fifth-best among 82 CBs).
A core component of Reed’s knack for big-play prevention is his tackling. Whenever Reed gives up a catch, he is very consistent at ensuring the receiver does not get anything extra beyond what he gained through the air. Reed allowed just 2.6 yards after the catch per reception in 2022, ranking fifth-best out of 82 qualified cornerbacks.
7. Bryce Huff’s situational pass rushing
This should arguably be ranked much higher, but considering its small sample size, I decided to push it down to No. 7. That’s no slight on Bryce Huff, though. The fact that he made this list at all despite playing 191 defensive snaps last year is a testament to how great he was in his role.
Huff led all edge rushers (196 players with at least 5 pass-rush snaps) with a 20.8% pressure rate in 2022, picking up 36 pressures on just 176 pass-rush snaps.
Obviously, it’s somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison to stack Huff up against his peers, as his role was perfectly crafted for him to have the optimal pass-rushing environment on every snap he played. He never had to consider the possibility of a run and he was always well-rested. These factors undoubtedly aided his efficiency.
Still, there are plenty of other pass-rush specialists in the league who played similar roles to Huff, and none of them were close to as effective. The Jets crafted the perfect role for his skill set and he made the most of it.
6. Breece Hall’s home-run hitting
Last May, this is what Robert Saleh had to say about the Jets’ decision to trade up and draft Breece Hall:
“Yeah, he is a home run hitter. A guy that can take the ball 80 [yards]. 10-plus play drives are hard to sustain during a game, let alone a season. If you are an offense that can’t hit big strikes and you’re living on singles and doubles, it might work in baseball to play small ball but you can’t do that in the NFL. What did it cost a fifth-round pick? I get it value and all that stuff is cool but to add a home run hitter to your group is significant.”
Hall delivered exactly what Saleh was looking for.
In just six-and-a-half games, Hall had a 79-yard reception, a 62-yard rushing touchdown, and a 34-yard rushing touchdown. Overall, he had five plays for 20-plus yards.
Through Week 7, Hall was tied for third among running backs in carries for 15-plus yards (8) and he was fifth in total rushing yards gained on rushes for 15-plus yards (199). It’s worth noting he was only 20th in carries at this point (80).
Because of his home-run hitting, Hall managed to be one of the league’s most explosive backs on a per-play basis. Among the 52 running backs with at least 80 carries in 2022, Hall ranked first in yards per carry (5.8) and third in yards per reception (11.5). Considering that Hall couldn’t really muster the best play-to-play consistency behind a porous offensive line, his success in these stats is a testament to the impact of his individual explosiveness.
5. Alijah Vera-Tucker’s run-blocking
Paving the way for many of Hall’s explosive runs was Alijah Vera-Tucker. The loss of Vera-Tucker hurt the Jets’ run game just as much as the loss of Hall – if not more so.
PFF ranked Vera-Tucker as the fourth-best run-blocking right guard (and sixth-best guard overall) in 2022 with a 76.5 grade, and the film backs that up.
In fact, that number is dragged down by Vera-Tucker’s four starts at tackle, where he performed quite well in pass protection but was slightly less effective in the run game. Over his three starts at right guard to begin the season, Vera-Tucker’s run-blocking grade was 85.6, which led all guards through Week 3.
My charting of the Jets’ run-blocking lines up with PFF’s conclusions. I charted Vera-Tucker with a 2.7-to-1 ratio of positive plays to negative plays as a run blocker, which I hypothesized would be a top-tier number if I ran the same study for the entire league. I also found myself agreeing with PFF that Vera-Tucker was a better run blocker at guard. I had Vera-Tucker with a 3.8-to-1 ratio at guard and a 2.2-to-1 ratio at tackle. There’s a good chance that the 3.8 mark would be No. 1 among guards, just like his grade at PFF.
4. Garrett Wilson’s elusiveness
There are many different skills of Garrett Wilson’s that could be placed here. Ultimately, though, Wilson’s elusiveness was his highest-ranking individual skill in 2022.
Wilson forced 22 missed tackles, per PFF, which ranked second among wide receivers and third among all players. Deebo Samuel led the way with 34 while Travis Kelce was second with 24. There was a sizable gap behind Wilson; A.J. Brown was fourth with 17 while Brandon Aiyuk and Davante Adams tied for sixth with 16.
Not bad company.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Wilson generated 84 YAC Over Expectation (YACOE), tying him for ninth-best among wide receivers. This means he consistently gained more YAC than he was expected to based on key variables in each situation (the route he ran, where on the field he caught the ball, how close the nearest defenders are, etc.).
Wilson was particularly elusive when catching the ball over the middle. On in-breaking routes, Wilson generated 110 YACOE, placing second among wide receivers behind only Jaylen Waddle (134). Wilson had Waddle beat on a per-reception basis; Waddle had 134 YACOE on 42 in-breaking catches (3.2 per reception) while Wilson had 110 YACOE on 33 in-breaking catches (3.3 per reception).
3. Quinnen Williams’ pass rushing
Quinnen Williams’ run defense is similarly dominant to his pass rushing, and his two-way excellence is what sets him apart from most of the league’s defensive tackles. But it’s his pass rushing that made him a true game-wrecker in 2022.
Williams was second among defensive tackles in sacks (12.0) and quarterback hits (28). Chris Jones was the only man ahead of Williams in each category (15.5 sacks and 29 hits), but he played 200 more pass-rush snaps than Williams (620 to 420). Williams’ success despite his modest snap count was remarkable.
With a sack on 3.1% of his pass-rush snaps (13 sacks on 420 snaps – he had two half-sacks), Williams led defensive tackles in sack rate by an enormous margin. No other defensive tackle even hit the 2.5% mark.
Williams also placed third in pressure rate at 12.38%, barely behind Jones’ 12.42%. Javon Hargrave led the way at 12.58%.
2. Sauce Gardner’s ability to play the ball
Quarterbacks challenged Sauce Gardner deep down the field time and time again throughout his rookie year. Early on, Gardner proved he was ready for the challenge with his responses against players like Mark Andrews and Ja’Marr Chase.
As the season progressed, teams continued to test Gardner, and he continued answering the call. It eventually started to feel like a given that he would deny any contested pass thrown his way – and the numbers bear that out.
Gardner led the NFL with 20 passes defended. He also led the NFL in passes defended on a per-target basis, recording a PD on 27.0% of the passes thrown his way.
PFF tracks a stat called “forced incompletions” that aims to do a better job than passes defended at evaluating a defender’s ability to play the ball. It captures all incomplete passes that were created by the cornerback’s coverage, even if they did not get credit for a PD, and it also avoids crediting players for PDs that came as a result of a bad throw or drop.
Gardner was the gold standard in this category, too. His total of 20 forced incompletions tied for second in the league behind James Bradberry’s 21, but Bradberry saw 24 more targets than Gardner (98 to 74). Gardner ranked No. 1 with a forced incompletion on 27.0% of his targets. Among the 80 cornerbacks who saw at least 50 targets, nobody else had a forced incompletion percentage higher than 22.2% (Darious Williams).
1. Aaron Rodgers’ interception avoidance
You could pick a plethora of Aaron Rodgers’ skills to place on this list. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that Rodgers owns all 10 of the best individual skills on the Jets’ roster (or, at least most of them). The guy is a four-time MVP quarterback.
I settled on Rodgers’ ability to minimize interceptions. In my opinion, this is the area where Rodgers has created the most separation between himself and every other quarterback in NFL history. It’s mind-boggling how good he is at not throwing interceptions.
For a Jets fan, looking at Rodgers’ career interception numbers is an out-of-body experience. The Gang Green faithful have witnessed their team suffer through games with three, four, or even six interceptions. That can be an entire season’s worth for Rodgers. He had single-digit interceptions in 11 consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2021, including six full seasons (15+ starts) where he threw six interceptions or fewer.
Overall, Rodgers has thrown 104 interceptions in 223 starts since he became a starter in 2008. That’s 0.466 interceptions per start – or 7.9 interceptions per 17 starts.
The Jets will hope Rodgers can return to normalcy in this category after an outlier year in 2022. Rodgers’ 12 interceptions last season were his most since he threw 13 during his first season as a starter in 2008.
In the years leading up to 2022, Rodgers was better than ever at minimizing interceptions. Rodgers threw 15 interceptions in 64 starts from 2018 to 2021 – just 4.0 interceptions per 17 starts. Across these four seasons, Rodgers had an interception rate of 0.7% (15 INT on 2,223 pass attempts).
Rodgers leads the league in interception rate more often than he leads the league in anything else. There have been six seasons in which Rodgers had the lowest interception rate in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks: 2009, 2014, and each of the four seasons from 2018-21. That’s his highest number of seasons leading the NFL in any of the primary passing categories listed on Pro Football Reference.
Rodgers’ career interception rate of 1.4% is the lowest in NFL history – even if you lower the qualifier all the way down to 200 career pass attempts.
This skill will be a game-changer of immeasurable proportions for a New York Jets franchise that, since its inception in 1960, owns the highest interception rate of the league’s 32 franchises at a whopping 4.2%. That number is ballooned by the higher interception rates from the league’s early years, but even over the past 10 seasons (2013-22), the Jets own the NFL’s highest interception rate at 3.2%.
Of the many franchise-altering abilities Rodgers brings to New York, none will be a more drastic upgrade over the Jets’ norms than Rodgers’ ball security. The greatest interception minimizer in NFL history is joining the league’s most interception-prone franchise.