FLORHAM PARK — The New York Jets already know they have a top-five unit across the league heading into 2023 thanks to a terrific secondary and a dynamic pass rush.
In 2022, 12 different players for New York recorded a sack while the defense was seventh in the league in that particular category. While some may have thought the team would look at other positions to improve their championship chances, the team doubled down in free agency and the draft by bolstering an already loaded defensive line.
Top talents like Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson now have Will McDonald, Jermaine Johnson, and plenty of other rising stars that offer unique ways for defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to use them.
“He (McDonald) has the right mindset, comes out here, and works his but off. He’s got some freakiness to him from an athletic standpoint. He has some stuff you can’t coach,” Ulbrich explained. (And) Jermaine is a guy that’s just matured. You can feel that he’s settled, there’s a deliberate approach to every approach he has. I’m excited about what he could become.”
McDonald and Johnson are two of the younger talents on the edge for the Jets and Ulbrich to use. The amount of pass rushers at their disposal though will allow the defense to attack in waves but also use some of their other edge rushers inside the trenches. With John Franklin-Myers and Michael Clemons at their disposal, two players who have experience with that exact premise, it will make the Jets’ defensive line that much harder to block.
“I’ve always believed it’s his (JFM’s) kind of superpower in playing inside. I believe Mike has the same ability. He’s a guy that can easily move inside and have success there. He’s a great athlete inside and it’ll be fun to see them do both,” Ulbrich explained.
Moving edge rushers inside is not a foreign concept in the NFL. Some of the greatest modern defenses have utilized that approach to great success. The 2007-11 New York Giants moved their edges inside in their Super Bowls and pulled off massive upsets. The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles caused the lone turnover of their Super Bowl victory based on that same principle.
Moving edge rushers inside can also allow an All-Pro talent like Quinnen Williams the space to dominate on the interior as well. There’s no reason why the Jets can’t be as successful as some of those great defenses either.
There is a focal reason why the Jets have built their defense the way they have to this point. Having a strong defensive line that can rush the passer in waves while also dominating against the run is something that great units have done over the course of history.
If the Jets want to be a part of that history, developing their rushers and tallying up sacks during the regular season will be the first step to doing so.