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NY Jets plus-minus: Which players have the biggest on-off impact?

Haason Reddick, NY Jets, Eagles, Stats
Haason Reddick, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets look different with these players on the field

Plus-minus is a popular stat in some sports, namely in basketball and hockey. Its purpose is to identify how well the team plays when a certain player is in the game, particularly in comparison to how well the team plays when he sits.

There is no plus-minus stat in football, although there are still ways to measure the differences in a team’s performance depending on whether or not a certain player is in the game.

Here are a few New York Jets players (current and former) with noteworthy on-off splits.

Alijah Vera-Tucker

It’s not often that an offensive lineman is a team’s most important player, but that was the case for the Jets over the past two seasons. With Alijah Vera-Tucker on the field, the Jets were a surprisingly competent offensive team. When he sat, they were one of the worst offensive teams in the history of football.

This is because of AVT’s gargantuan impact on the Jets’ run game. New York’s passing attack has been piping hot garbage regardless of AVT’s presence, but with AVT on the field, the Jets have run the ball at an elite level, even with a severe lack of offensive line talent around him.

AVT’s impact is reflected in Breece Hall‘s career production. Here is a look at Hall’s career numbers with AVT versus without him:

  • With Vera-Tucker on the field: 120 carries for 730 yards (6.08 YPC)
  • Without Vera-Tucker on the field: 183 carries for 727 yards (3.97 YPC)

Not only would 6.08 yards per carry have led qualified running backs in 2023 (min. 120 carries, 41 qualifiers), but it wouldn’t have been remotely close. The gap between Hall and the actual leader, Christian McCaffrey (5.36), would have been 0.72 yards per carry. That is about equal to the gap between McCaffrey and the eighth-ranked player, David Montgomery (4.63).

Without AVT, Hall has looked pedestrian. His 3.97 yards per carry without AVT would have ranked 26th out of 41 qualifiers last season. That’s no slight on Hall – averaging 4.0 YPC (enough to surpass 15 qualified RBs) behind an AVT-less Jets offensive line is a testament to Hall’s greatness. But there was a very firm cap on how productive he could be when AVT was out.

AVT’s impact on the run game is enough on its own to drastically alter the success of the entire team. Here is how the Jets have performed in games with AVT versus without him:

  • With Vera-Tucker: 7-5 record (.583 – pace for 9.9 wins), 21.2 PPG
  • Without Vera-Tucker: 7-15 (.318 – pace for 5.4 wins), 14.1 PPG

Boosting the Jets’ scoring average from 14.1 points to 21.2, AVT has essentially been worth one touchdown per game. With the Jets’ defense keeping most games close, that one touchdown per game is enough to boost the team’s win percentage by .265. They’ve played like a 5-win team without him and like a 10-win team with him.

Al Woods vs. Leki Fotu

The Jets made a bold decision by adding Al Woods to their defensive tackle rotation in 2023. New York typically values athletic gap-shooters on their defensive line, so the big-bodied, stationary Woods was an odd fit.

Woods’ short-lived Jets tenure (6 games) was highly forgettable, but he had a fascinating on-off impact, as you would expect for a player whose skill set is so different than the players around him. Thanks to his imposing frame and ability to plug gaps, Woods actually had a very positive impact on the run game despite a lack of tackles. However, he completely tanked the pass rush.

Opponents averaged 3.1 yards per rush attempt with Woods on the field compared to 4.2 when he was off. The -1.1 margin was the second-best among Jets defenders behind only Jamien Sherwood (-1.3).

However, if opponents passed the ball with Woods on the field, they were almost guaranteed a clean pocket – usually leading to success. This was most noticeable in a two-game stretch early in the season against Dallas and New England. Across those two games, when Woods on the field, the Cowboys and Patriots posted these passing numbers:

  • 19 for 22 (86%)
  • 176 yards (8.0 Y/A)
  • 1 sack
  • 0 QB hits
  • 1 TD
  • 0 INT
  • 8 first downs
  • 115.2 passer rating

It will be interesting to see how the Jets’ interior defensive line looks without a Woods-type in the lineup. Leki Fotu seems to be Woods’ quasi-replacement, although he is not quite the same type of player as Woods. Despite both being above 330 pounds, Fotu is not a space-eater in the way that Woods was.

Fotu’s on-off impact against the run in Arizona was not impressive. In 2023, the Cardinals allowed 4.6 yards per rush attempt with him on versus 4.7 with him off (-0.1). It’s not as if he makes up for this with pass rushing; Fotu’s career-high for total pressures in a season is only seven, and that’s with him getting at least 133 pass-rush snaps in all four of his career seasons. His career pressure rate of 3.1% is hardly better than Woods’ 2.7% last season.

I would have liked to see the Jets replace Woods with a better pass rusher to balance out the likely downgrade from his imposing presence in the run game. Fotu is unlikely to match Woods’ impact in the run game, and he might be equally useless in the pass game.

Bryce Huff vs. Haason Reddick

Bryce Huff had the polar opposite impact of Al Woods.

Huff was indispensable for the Jets’ pass rush. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the Jets allowed a 69.8 passer rating when Huff was on the field compared to 83.1 when he was on the sideline. His -13.3 passer rating differential was the biggest among New York’s defensive linemen.

That is an enormous gap. In 2023, 13.3 points was similar to the difference between Patrick Mahomes (92.6 passer rating) and Joshua Dobbs (79.5). For team defenses, it was similar to the gap between the Ravens, who allowed a league-low 74.6 passer rating, and the 12th-ranked Bears/Rams (88.0).

However, Huff tanked the Jets’ run defense. New York allowed 5.2 yards per rush attempt with him on the field compared to 3.6 when he was off. The +1.6 margin was the worst among Jets defenders with a reasonable sample of snaps both on and off the field.

Huff’s major negative impact against the run is likely why the Jets were hesitant to expand his snap count and sign him to a lucrative long-term deal. They are hoping Haason Reddick can replicate Huff’s impact against the pass (or at least come close to it) while being more serviceable in the run game.

Reddick also had negative on-off splits in the run game last year, although not quite to the extent of Huff’s. The Eagles allowed 4.5 yards per rush attempt with him on versus 3.8 with him off, a +0.7 margin. While that is less than ideal, there were nine Eagles players with a worse mark, so it’s not as if he stood out in a huge way.

It’s also worth noting that Reddick had positive on-off splits over the previous two seasons. In 2022, the Eagles allowed 0.4 fewer yards per carry with him on the field, and in 2021, the Panthers allowed 0.3 fewer yards per carry with him on the field. With marks of +0.7, -0.4, and -0.3 over the past three seasons, his average on-off split comes out to 0.0 since 2021. This lines up with his individual run-stopping statistics and grades, which are generally around league-average.

As for Huff, his 2023 split was nothing new. He was at +3.0 in 2022, +0.5 in 2021, and +1.0 in 2020. It’s quite clear he is not a viable run defender.

The Jets seem to be going from a poor run defender in Huff to an average one in Reddick. That gives Reddick some leeway in the passing game. Even if Reddick is a slight downgrade in the passing game, his advantage in the run game should give him a strong chance of replicating Huff’s overall impact.

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