The New York Jets’ defensive line could be even better in 2023
There is plenty of excitement surrounding the New York Jets with training camp underway. This excitement has mainly revolved around the addition of future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers’ addition, many are excited to see his command of the offense and how his rapport with his new weapons develops over the course of camp.
Through four practices, Rodgers has fit the bill so far. He has shown great command of the offense and has started to build a connection with Garrett Wilson, Tyler Conklin, Corey Davis, and other key players.
The offense is not the only group on the roster generating buzz, though. The Jets’ defensive line has been the subject of arguably the highest expectations on the entire roster.
All of the hype around the defensive line is warranted. The unit is led by superstar defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who had the best season of his career in 2022. Racking up 12 sacks and consistently causing havoc in the run game, Williams was named a first-team All-Pro selection.
In addition to Williams, the Jets have John Franklin-Myers and Carl Lawson returning as projected starters. Both players bring pass-rushing prowess, registering seven and eight sacks, respectively, last season. Franklin-Myers also contributes positively in the run game and offers the ability to play both on the interior and on the edge.
The depth raises the unit’s ceiling. In addition to the aforementioned players, the Jets return Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, Micheal Clemons, and Solomon Thomas from last year’s unit. They also added Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods in free agency while selecting Will McDonald in the first round of the NFL draft.
All of these players bring specific skills to the Jets’ defense. With the limited snaps he played in 2022, Huff was one of the best pass rush specialists in the NFL last season. Clemons provided solid rotational production as a late-round pick.
Jefferson adds another pass-rushing threat while Woods can slot in as the team’s run-stopping defensive tackle. Johnson already provided great run defense and is looking to take a big leap as a pass rusher. McDonald has the potential to be the team’s best pure pass rusher with his natural bend and athleticism.
Due to the diversity of skillsets along the unit and the untapped potential of its young players, the Jets’ defensive line should be able to cause havoc this season – perhaps even more than a year ago. And through the beginning stages of camp, this has been the case.
Williams and Franklin-Myers have made their presence known on multiple occasions throughout the team sessions. Jermaine Johnson, fresh off changing to a new jersey number (#11), looks more aggressive, faster, and stronger. Clemons has showcased his strength in his pass-rushing arsenal, while Woods has popped in the running game.
No practice for the Jets today before the pads come on Tuesday. So here are four takeaways/observations from the first four practices:
1. The hype around Jermaine Johnson is real. Feels he’s winning a rep almost every time I watch him. Don’t expect much to change with pads.
— Ethan Greenberg (@EGreenbergJets) July 24, 2023
Jermaine Johnson tossed aside Billy Turner for what would’ve been an easy sack on Aaron Rodgers. #Jets
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) July 23, 2023
Been a fun battle between Mekhi Becton and Micheal Clemons. Clemons got around him for a pressure on a Zach Wilson pass. #Jets
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) July 21, 2023
The excitement has extended to the Jets’ defensive linemen themselves. Franklin-Myers spoke Sunday about the unit’s talent.
“We talk about it all the time, you look at our defensive line and realize we don’t have a weak spot,” Franklin-Myers said. “Everybody brings something different and unique to the team.”
Franklin-Myers also spoke about how this Jets defensive line stacks up to others he has played with during his career.
“We got everybody that we need and are fully confident in our abilities out there. … As many great defensive lines that I have been a part of, I can truly say that this is the deepest D-line that I have been a part of and the most unique.”
Williams praised the progress he’s seen from Johnson.
Quinnen Williams, unprompted, calls out Jermaine Johnson as someone that he expects to have a big year because of his dedication in the offseason:
"He's bigger, stronger, faster. I for sure know he's going to have a breakout year." pic.twitter.com/aHa3TSfhVx
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) July 19, 2023
Woods, at his press availability on Saturday, spoke about why he decided to come to play for the Jets’ defense.
“I just wanted to do something different. I’ve been in a 3-4 for a long time, so I was just tired of catching and reading. I would stand on the sideline and watch other teams play, and I’m like, damn, I want to play like that. That s— looks fun.”
While having no pads gives the advantage to the defense, it is encouraging to see that the defensive line has started off camp strong. Once the padded practices and the preseason arrive, it will be crucial for the group to build cohesion. If the unit can fully utilize its talent and capitalize on the opportunity it has, the Jets’ defense and team as a whole will be in a great position for consistent success.