Home | Articles | Column | How will NY Jets’ DL snap counts evolve as season progresses?

How will NY Jets’ DL snap counts evolve as season progresses?

Micheal Clemons, NY Jets, Snap Counts
Micheal Clemons, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ defensive line may be more clear-cut than in the past

When the New York Jets traded for Haason Reddick, the question became how they would split defensive line reps. With Jermaine Johnson and John Franklin-Myers already receiving starter-level snaps, it appeared to force Will McDonald down to a bit role once more. Trading Franklin-Myers changed the scenario, clarifying possible playing time divisions.

Still, there are questions about how the Jets will split snaps. For one thing, they have the 67.5% clause in Reddick’s contract. If he plays at least that percentage of snaps and records 10+ sacks, the 2026 third-round pick the Jets traded for him will become a second-rounder. That likely means that they want to avoid that threshold at all costs.

There are many other possible dilemmas the Jets face in their defensive line room. Let’s project how much playing time each player will receive.

The Jets had 1,133 defensive snaps in 2023 (including plays with penalties). We’ll assume a nice even 1,100 in 2024, although it could end up less than that with the assumed superior offense.

Edge rushers

Jermaine Johnson‘s role is the most definitive of any Jets edge rusher. He played 66% of the defensive snaps in 2023 and figures to be at that same level in 2024. Because he’s a strong run defender, the Jets trust him on both run and pass downs. That would mean 726 defensive snaps.

Even though no other Jets edge rusher exceeded 42% of the edge snaps in 2023, Haason Reddick seems poised to come close to Johnson’s total. Jeff Ulbrich stated that the Jets trust him in both run and pass situations. Reddick averaged 77.5% of the defensive snaps over his past four seasons, and he won’t come close to that number. I believe Carl Lawson’s 58% from 2022 is probably a good estimate for him, putting him at 638 snaps.

After that, it becomes tricky. Will McDonald played just 19% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2023. Will they suddenly elevate him to 42%? I think they’ll start him at a lower rate and then let him work his way up if his performance warrants it. Let’s say he finishes the season at 38% — that would be 418 snaps.

The Jets inexplicably like Micheal Clemons. His snap count could even increase now that Franklin-Myers is gone, as he’s their other big body along the edge. Still, with undrafted free agents Braiden McGregor (6-foot-6, 254 pounds) and Eric Watts (6-foot-5, 273 pounds), the Jets have two other options whose pedigrees aren’t too far off from Clemons’ total production in the NFL. Of the two, Watts would have the better chance of overtaking some or all of Clemons’ role because he’s a similar size. He’s also stood out more in training camp thus far.

Watts had an 80.3 Pro Football Focus run-defense grade in 2023 at UConn, which means it’s a potential strength of his. His 10.8% pressure rate was nothing special, but given that Clemons had just a 5.1% pressure rate in 2023, there’s virtually nowhere to go but up in that category. McGregor was a better pass rusher than Watts (11.7% pressure rate) but wasn’t quite as strong against the run (69.3 PFF grade).

There are 418 snaps remaining, likely to be divided up among two of these three players. Clemons played 29% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2022 and 35% in 2023. If Watts makes the roster, Clemons’ snap count may decrease due to redundancy. I’m going to guess that’s what happens and Clemons goes back down to 25%, or 275 snaps. The remaining 13% will go to Watts, or 143 snaps.

Interior defensive line

Without Franklin-Myers to muddy the waters, the interior defensive line snaps seem clearer. The Clemons interior experiment was clearly a failure, as the Jets rarely used him there and then had him slim down in the offseason. That means the interior defensive line snaps will go to defensive tackles without tweeners (although Johnson could see the occasional snap inside, per Robby Sabo’s speculation).

Quinnen Williams saw a small bump in snaps in 2023, going from 65% in 2022 to 69%. I assume he won’t go higher than that, giving him 759 snaps. The rest of the snaps at IDL are weird, though, because the Jets have players pigeonholed into specific roles that they’re not that good at.

Al Woods played just 32% of the Jets’ defensive snaps even when he was healthy in 2023. Leki Fotu is his organic replacement, but he’s not close to the player that Woods was. Will the Jets play Fotu more than they did Woods in 2023? I somehow don’t think so. Therefore, I’ll give Fotu 352 snaps.

The problem is that Javon Kinlaw played only 44% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps in 2023, and 68.1% of those were on passing downs. In the weeks when Woods was active, Jefferson still played only 55.8% of his snaps on passing downs. Will the Jets use Kinlaw more exclusively in passing situations as the 49ers did, or will they place him into the Jefferson role? Jefferson was already bad as a run defender with a 38.7 PFF run defense grade — but Kinlaw was even worse at 31.3. I’m going to assume the Jets will keep Kinlaw at roughly a 45% snap count, though I’m not sure how they’ll utilize him in terms of run-pass splits. That gives him 495 snaps.

Solomon Thomas played well as a backup in 2023, but his performance suffered as a starter. He’s another minus run defender with a 32.2 PFF run defense grade. Thomas played 43% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2023, but that was due to injury; he was at 33% in 2022. I think somewhere in between sounds fair, or 38%; that’s 418 snaps.

There are still another 176 defensive tackle snaps remaining. I do think Leonard Taylor will make this roster aas the 10th defensive lineman. He might not play in every game, but with the inevitable injuries or the need for a better pass rush, I think Taylor will get playing time instead of the yearly elevation of Tanzel Smart from the practice squad. He’d be at 16% of the defensive snaps.

Recap

Here’s how I see the Jets’ defensive line snaps breaking down.

Edge

  • Jermaine Johnson: 66% – 726 snaps
  • Haason Reddick: 58% – 638 snaps
  • Will McDonald: 38% – 418 snaps
  • Micheal Clemons: 25% – 275 snaps
  • Eric Watts: 13% – 143 snaps

Interior defensive line

  • Quinnen Williams: 69% – 759 snaps
  • Javon Kinlaw: 45% – 495 snaps
  • Solomon Thomas: 38% – 418 snaps
  • Leki Fotu: 32% – 352 snaps
  • Leonard Taylor: 16% – 176 snaps

Want More Jet X?

Subscribe to become a Jet X Member to unlock every piece of Jets X-Factor content (film breakdowns, analytics, Sabo with the Jets, etc.), get audio versions of each article, receive the ability to comment within our community, and experience an ad-free platform experience.

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Android (Google Play) device.

Sign up for Jet X Daily, our daily newsletter that's delivered to your inbox every morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed and/or find us on Apple News to stay updated with the New York Jets.

Follow us on X (Formerly Twitter) @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Related Articles

About the Author

More From Author

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
3 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
1 month ago

Rivka, If you are willing, it would be great to have you post two follow-ups to this article: one at the halfway point and one at the end of the season. It would be good take a look at how your estimates stack up versus reality; and more interesting, would be the reasons for any differences. TIA

Jonathan Richter
1 month ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Put it in your calendar, because I want to read it also.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jonathan Richter
3
0
REPLY TO THIS ARTICLE HERE:x
()
x