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Grading every position group on the New York Jets’ defense

NY Jets, Grade, Defensive Depth Chart
Javon Kinlaw, New York Jets, Getty Images

EDGE: Haason Reddick, Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald, Micheal Clemons

I am extremely high on this group. I know that the loss of Bryce Huff was a big one, and I was not so happy with it, but I like the addition of Haason Reddick a ton. Reddick had 11.0 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 67 total pressures, and 13 tackles for loss in 2023. Reddick will be an awesome veteran for Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald to learn from.

I think McDonald is in for a big season as well, which some people probably won’t agree with. On just 99 pass-rush snaps last year, McDonald recorded 12 total pressures and four sacks (two full, two half). His 4.0% sack rate placed fourth-best among 132 edge rushers with at least 90 pass-rush snaps. In addition, his 12.1% pressure rate was 50th and his 16.0% pass-rush win rate was 23rd. He has all the ability to be a game wrecker across from Johnson – he just needs the chance to play and show it.

As for Johnson, he had a huge Year 2 leap and I expect him to be even better than he was last year pressure-wise and sack-wise.

Grade: A-

DT: Quinnen Williams, Javon Kinlaw, Leki Fotu, Solomon Thomas

This group is obviously extremely dependent on Quinnen Williams. Although the stats that most fans look at may have shown Q declining last year, that was not the case. In 2023, he led DTs (75 qualifiers) with a 90.4 PFF grade in run defense. Q’s pressure rate was 15.1%, which was second among interior defensive linemen only to Chris Jones. He was incredibly elite in 2023, easily a top-3 DT in the NFL. He is so, so good, and it is pure comedy that he is spoken about as if he was not as good as 2022 Q.

As for the rest of the group, I think Solomon Thomas is a very steady guy. He was good for the Jets last year in run defense and showed some signs of life as a pass rusher at 3-technique. The two free agent signings did not move me a ton. I am hopeful that in their sparse snaps, they will be able to make an impact, especially Javon Kinlaw, who played under Robert Saleh in the past.

Grade: B+

LB: C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood, Zaire Barnes, Chazz Surratt

The only group on the NYJ defense I’m higher on is the DBs. The starting LBs are a close second. I love Quincy Williams and C.J. Mosley.

Lots of people seem to think they are not as good as Jets fans make them out to be. Yet, PFF graded Mosley (90.6) and Williams (88.7) first and second among linebackers, respectively, in coverage grade this past season. Williams led the NFL with 80 defensive stops (tackles that constitute as a failure for the offense). The No. 2 player, Bobby Wagner, had 71, and the three players tied for third had 61.

Williams’ missed tackle rate is a bit high, but CJ’s was extremely low. I think Quincy will only get better at this, as he has shown a lot of improvement instincts-wise during his career with the Jets.

As for the depth, I think Jamien Sherwood showed some good snaps last year from our base defense. I think he could be a decent piece going forward, but for now, it’s Quincy and C.J.’s show, and it’s a damn good one.

Grade: A

CB: Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Qwan’tez Stiggers

Sauce Gardner leads this group after an unbelievable sophomore campaign to follow up his rookie year. Sauce had the second-best PFF coverage grade among cornerbacks (90.8) at the position and ranked first among all CBs when it came to preventing separation on routes. Sauce also allowed the second-fewest yards per cover snap (0.44) while finishing third in forced incompletion rate (21.1%) and fourth in first downs allowed (11). He is as flawless of a player as they come, and the best corner in the NFL.

As for D.J. Reed, he really is as good of a CB2 as you will find in the NFL. I think he will do a lot better this year if Sauce travels more. This will allow D.J. to really hone in and shut down all the No. 2 options he faces.

I still think Michael Carter II is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. In my opinion, slot corner is the second-hardest position to play in the NFL besides QB. Defensive backs have all the rules against them, and yet MCII still plays at an unbelievably high level. He was second only to Sauce in separation prevented. The chart below is full of cornerbacks, and as you can see, he was the best slot cornerback in this stat. Combine that with his high IQ and the good run support he provides, and he rounds out what is easily the best cornerback room in the NFL.

As for the depth, Brandin Echols has been solid in limited action, and you cannot help but love the story of Qwan’tez Stiggers. He couldn’t have entered a better CB room to learn from, so I have some hope for him to become a productive player.

Grade: A+++

S: Chuck Clark, Tony Adams, Ashtyn Davis, Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Isaiah Oliver, Jaylen Key

As for the safeties, this is not a great room, but it will be elevated by the CB room. I think Chuck Clark will be an upgrade over Jordan Whitehead at SS. I also think that Ashtyn Davis will have a real chance to compete for reps and end up having a lot of snaps this season; that was an underrated re-signing.

This room doesn’t stand out, and the depth is not great either. Again, though, I think that the rest of the defense will elevate this group. How Clark looks coming off his injury is obviously a huge X-factor.

Grade: C+

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