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Ranking AFC East defenses by position: New York Jets landslide?

Sauce Gardner, NY Jets, NFL, CB
Sauce Gardner, New York Jets, Getty Images

Where does the New York Jets’ defense rank in the AFC East?

Coming off the 2022 and 2023 seasons, if there’s one thing New York Jets fans feel they can count on, it’s an elite defense. With the worst offense in the NFL in back-to-back seasons, they still managed to finish in the top five defensively. However, some key personnel changes and losses could throw a wrench in those plans.

How do the Jets stack up head-to-head defensively against their AFC East rivals?

Edge defender

  1. Bradley Chubb/Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins
  2. Jermaine Johnson/Haason Reddick, Jets
  3. Matt Judon/Josh Uche, Patriots
  4. Von Miller/Greg Rousseau, Bills

This one is very close between the Dolphins’ and Jets’ duos. Chubb and Phillips were having better years than the Jets’ duo in 2023 before their respective injuries. Chubb ranked 17th out of 72 qualified edge rushers with a 14.8% pressure rate, while Phillips’ 13% would have ranked 27th if qualified. Meanwhile, Jermaine Johnson’s 12.6% actually ranked 27th, while Haason Reddick’s 12% ranked 32nd. Phillips also had a 77.7 Pro Football Focus run defense grade, and Chubb was at 71.1. Those marks are superior to Johnson’s 71.0 and Reddick’s 64.0.

Matt Judon posted a 17% pressure rate through the first four games of the season, and Josh Uche posted a 16.3% pressure rate in a specialist role (227 pass rush snaps). Greg Rousseau’s 14.9% pressure rate ranked 14th among edge rushers and his 78.3 PFF run defense grade was the best in the division, but Von Miller’s 7.3% indicates that he may have hit an age wall.

Interior defensive line

  1. Quinnen Williams/Javon Kinlaw, Jets
  2. DaQuan Jones/Ed Oliver, Bills
  3. Zach Sieler/Calais Campbell/Neville Gallimore, Dolphins
  4. Christian Barmore/Davon Godchaux/Deatrich Wise, Patriots

It’s hard to compare apples to oranges when it comes to 3-4 vs. 4-3 lineups on the interior defensive line. Quinnen Williams is the best defensive tackle in the division, ranking second among all IDL with a 15.1% pressure rate and leading the position with a 90.4 run defense grade. Even with a less-than-stellar Javon Kinlaw next to him, the Jets’ duo takes the No. 1 spot.

Ed Oliver had the best season of his career in 2023, posting a 13.4% pressure rate. DaQuan Jones endured an injury-riddled season but still had a 14.9% pressure rate and a 76.9 run defense grade. Oliver and Jones form a critical part of the Bills’ defense.

The Dolphins’ interior defensive line has a Christian Wilkins-sized hole in it. Zach Sieler ranked 19th out of 66 qualifiers with a 63.4 run defense grade and also posted a 10.5% pressure rate. Calais Campbell still has some juice as an interior pass rusher. Neville Gallimore’s 52.8 run defense grade and 7.7% pressure rate weren’t world-beating.

Christian Barmore is underrated, posting a 20th-ranked 10.3% pressure rate and also a 12th-ranked 67.8 run defense grade. Davon Godchaux is not an impactful player in either phase, though, posting a 51.6 run defense grade and just a 2.1% pressure rate. Deatrich Wise is a decent pass rusher (9.2% pressure rate) but also doesn’t bring much in the run game with a 49.7 grade.

Linebacker

  1. Matt Milano/Terrel Bernard, Bills
  2. C.J. Mosley/Quincy Williams, Jets
  3. Jahlani Tavai/Ja’Whaun Bentley, Patriots
  4. David Long/Jordyn Brooks, Dolphins

It’s hard to differentiate between the Jets’ and Bills’ units since both have first-team All-Pros from recent seasons. However, Terrel Bernard’s coverage and run defense numbers are slightly better than C.J. Mosley’s, giving the Bills the top spot.

Jahlani Tavai had a breakout 2023 season, ranking third out of 66 qualifiers with 0.559 yards per cover snap and seventh with an 86.2 PFF run defense grade. Ja’Whaun Bentley struggled somewhat in coverage (9.0 yards per target) but was a decent run defender (67.7 grade).

David Long has the worst trait of any linebacker in the division, as his coverage leaves much to be desired. He ranked no higher than 52nd out of 70 qualifiers in yards per cover snap, yards per target, EPA per target, coverage success rate, and missed tackle rate. Jordyn Brooks’ 49.3 run defense grade and 1.27 yards per cover snap are also in the bottom tier of linebacker statistics.

Cornerback

  1. Sauce Gardner/D.J. Reed/Michael Carter II, Jets
  2. Christian Benford/Rasul Douglas/Taron Johnson, Bills
  3. Jalen Ramsey/Kendall Fuller/Kader Kohou, Dolphins
  4. Christian Gonzalez/Jonathan Jones/Marcus Jones, Patriots

The Jets have the best cornerback trio in the NFL, headlined by Sauce Gardner’s back-to-back first-team All-Pro selections and Michael Carter II’s heavily underrated big-play prevention. The Bills’ trio isn’t too far behind them, though, featuring three cornerbacks in the top 15 in yards per cover snap and yards per target.

Jalen Ramsey still put up a strong statistical season in 2023, albeit unqualified. His 0.695 yards per cover snap would have ranked 7th out of 72 qualified corners, and his 7.2 yards per target would have also been above average. Kendall Fuller is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the NFL, tying for 16th out of 72 qualified corners in allowing 6.68 yards per target and ranking 10th with 0.778 yards per cover snap. Kader Kohou is exploitable in coverage, particularly on the outside, but he posted decent slot coverage numbers, including a fourth-ranked 0.87 yards per cover snap (out of 29 slot corners with at least 200 slot snaps).

Christian Gonzalez looked like the lockdown corner he was projected to be prior to going down for the season, allowing 6.5 yards per target. Jonathan Jones was slightly above average in yards per reception and yards per target.

Safety

  1. Kyle Dugger/Jabrill Peppers, Patriots
  2. Jevon Holland/Jordan Poyer, Dolphins
  3. Cole Bishop/Mike Edwards, Bills
  4. Chuck Clark/Tony Adams, Jets

Jabrill Peppers’ 90.7 run defense grade ranked 2nd out of 66 qualifiers, and Kyle Dugger was 10th at 79.6. Peppers also ranked first in yards per target (3.88), while Dugger was 22nd (7.11).

Jevon Holland ranked sixth with an 82.6 run defense grade, though he ranked 37th with 0.553 yards per cover snap. Jordan Poyer is still a solid safety, ranking 18th with a 74.3 run defense grade and 15th with 0.441 yards per cover snap.

It remains to be seen who will start for the Bills at safety, as second-round pick Cole Bishop joins the returning Mike Edwards, Taylor Rapp, and Cam Lewis. Edwards’ 0.496 yards per cover snap ranked 27th among qualified safeties.

Chuck Clark is solid in the run game and in covering tight ends, although he can struggle in other areas of coverage. His surehanded tackling is one of his best assets. Tony Adams’ 69.7 run defense grade ranked 29th among safeties, while his 0.472 yards per cover snap ranked 20th.

Totals

Taking averages of each team among the five positions, here are the results.

  1. Jets – 2.0
  2. Bills – 2.4
  3. Dolphins – 2.6
  4. Patriots – 3.0

The Jets do end up on top, but they don’t run away in a landslide position by position. The other defenses in the AFC East also have many strong pieces, and the Jets can’t just overlook them.

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DFargas
1 month ago

For my money, the Bills interior d-line solidly trumps the Jets’. For one thing, you can tout QW’s past performance all you like, but he has had decent partners on the interior throughout his Jets tenure. What will it do to his performance when he has to carry a guy like Kinlaw?

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