New York Jets Defensive Line Grade Sheet: Week 7

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The Jets’ defensive line was spotlighted in pre-game intro’s on Sunday, revving up an already excited crowd at MetLife Stadium. After a slow first half saw the Jets front line create zero pressure on quarterback Tom Brady, questions started to arise.

Then, something changed. The defense came out in the second half on fire, as constant pressure quickly got Brady & Co. off kilter. The Jets appeared better prepared for the Patriots hurry up offense in the games’ final two quarters, setting a completely different tone than what was seen in the first half.

It’s no secret that if you can create pressure on Brady, the wheels will start coming off of the New England offense. And that’s exactly what happened this past Sunday. The defense wreaked havoc in the second half, racking up four sacks and helping hold New England to just 1-for-12 on third down.

Muhammed Wilkerson: 75 plays (99%)

  • 5 Total Tackles (3 Solo)
  • 1 Sack
  • 1 Tackle For Loss

He’s the best player on this team, and he continues to prove it each and every week. Wilkerson was one of the only players on the Jets’ defensive line to play exceptionally well for all four quarters, as he was regularly seen creating chaos in the Patriots backfield.

Seeing the Jets’ sack leader moved all over the LOS has become commonplace, and Sunday was no different. Wilkerson saw snaps inside and outside against New England and was equally productive regardless of position. His third quarter sack of Brady was his sixth of the season (a career best), and his third sack in as many games.

Grade: A

He’s made a name for himself this year and can certainly be considered in the same category as Houston Texans’ star, J.J. Watt. Wilkerson has been a force all season, whether against the run or the pass (seen in the pictures below), and we continued to see that this past Sunday.

Mo vs. The Run: 

MoRun1Wilkerson (circled) lines up over New England center, Ryan Wendell, on a third and one inside the Jets’ 20-yard line.MoRun2

It doesn’t take long for Wilkerson to read the play as he blows past an off-balance Wendell, getting a clear path at the running back (pictured below).

MoRun3

 

MoRun4Wilkerson dives at the RB’s legs, using his long frame to trip him up and put New England in a fourth and short situation. 

Mo vs. The Pass:

MoSack1

This time, we see Wilkerson lined up outside New England LT, Nate Solder.

MoSack3

While Solder attempts to force Wilkerson outside, Mo’s combination of strength and quickness prevails as he evades the block with an inside move and gets a clear path to Brady (pictured below).

MoSack4

Brady has nowhere to go here and quickly drops to the turf, leading to Wilkerson’s sixth sack of the season and third consecutive game with a sack.

Sheldon Richardson: 72 plays (96%)

  • 5 Total Tackles (3 Solo)

It is pretty clear that the rookie DT is a special player, especially when you consider how early he is in his development. But while Richardson continued to look stellar against the run, he has yet to really show an ability to consistently create pressure in the pocket, leading to what is his most glaring weakness as a rookie.

Richardson has become an immovable object inside, which is a key to his presence vs. the run, but if there’s anything lacking from his game, it’s his limited pass rush moves and has struggles to evade 1-on-1 blocks. Rex moved him around the line this week, playing him inside and outside, and even standing him up with a little more regularity, in an effort to create mismatches. But the presence just isn’t there against the pass.

I have to wonder if his continued struggles in passing situations, combined with Coples’ struggles outside, will lead to more playing time for QC inside. I don’t think Rex is there quite yet, but this is something to watch as the season moves forward.

Grade: B-

Richardson was once again very good against run, but his lack of ability in passing situations is impossible to ignore. I’m being tough on the rookie, and possibly a bit unfairly, but when you’re counting on the defensive line to get after the QB consistently, everyone needs to be held accountable.

Damon Harrison: 15 plays (20%)

  • 2 Solo Tackles
  • 1 Sack
  • 1 Tackle for Loss

Rex predominantly used his nickle defense in this one in an effort to combat the Patriots heavy passing attack, leading to very limited playing time for Harrison. But when ‘Snacks’ did get a chance, he certainly made an impact.

While the UDFA is becoming well known for his ability to clog lanes and stuff the run, Harrison’s biggest impact came in passing situations on Sunday, and resulted in his first-ever NFL sack (pictured below).SnacksSack1

Harrison (circled) is lined up over Patriots center, Ryan Wendell, on first down at the New England 10-yard line.SnacksSack2

Harrison makes the most of his limited opportunities on this play, using his size and strength to quickly push Wendell back off the LOS before LG Logan Mankins can have a chance to help.

SnacksSack3

With Harrison in a one-on-one situation, he overpowers Wendell to get inside and create pressure in the pocket.

SnacksSack4

Brady doesn’t get any help from his RB, and with Wendell and Mankins trailing, he quickly decides to hit the deck as the 350-pound Harrison closes in.

SnacksSack5

The result is Harrison’s first-career NFL sack.

Grade: A

Harrison saw his playing time plummet as a result of Rex’s play calling against the Pats’ pass-happy offense, but clearly made the most of his 15 snaps, as he found his way into the Patriot backfield on a number of occasions and finished with multiple tackles, including one TFL and one sack.

Leger Douzable: 9 plays (12%)

Not the best day for Douzable, who didn’t record any tackles and was flagged for one penalty.

Grade: D-

Kenrick Ellis: 1 play

Considering Harrison only saw 15 snaps in this one, it’s not a surprise that Ellis was on the bench for the majority of the game. He’s clearly been relegated to backup status with the emergence of fan-favorite “Snacks”, and that’s certainly not going to change with Harrison performing as well as he has.

Grade: Incomplete

Final Analysis:

It was certainly a tale of two halves for the Jets defensive line, but in the end, it was a very successful Sunday for this group. When the Jets needed it the most, they came up big. The performance up front in the second half not only flustered Brady, but it was also responsible to waking up the MetLife crowd.

  • Harold

    Definitely a little tough on Richardson. You said you were probably being a little harsh. You know if you need to ask you already know the answer. His pass rush is good for a rookie and he has had numerous pressures throughout the season. He would have had a half sack but Pace just got his hand on the football as Harrison arrived.

  • Mark Phelan

    Thought provoking comments on Richardson:

    Remember when drafted the scoop on Richardson was that he was very good with QB pressure – one on one – but untested as a run stopper. People were even concerned that Rex was likely to position him where he would pick up double blocks from OL rather that the one-on-one blocks which he was so good at handling.

    I have not thought Richardson was underperforming. In fact, I have been surprised by how much time he has spent on field vis-a-vis first years of MW and QC. Certainly can’t argue with stats of our OL so far.

    If there has been a disappointment in terms of stats and impact it has been QC. That injury was a bummer. How can a NFL player recover from a broken ankle in 4 weeks?

  • KAsh

    I know that this is not analytical, but how many sacks does Richardson have for the year? Three? I think I remember at least three. For a rookie 3-4 DE that mostly plays inside in 4-man fronts, this number used to be good, maybe great. It is not so much that his pass rush is struggling; rather he has been inconsistent. If that is the most you can criticize a rookie for, one lining up in diverse positions at that, then you have a pretty darn good rookie.

  • Frank Antonelli

    Jets DL’s ability to play run or pass – in any situation – is key to their greatness. Over the past three years, the Jets have built as stout a defensive front that exists in the league. This was no accident. The Jets have been excellent against the pass and solid against the run, but in the past with a different set of linemen the team seemed to always struggle on those runs they knew were coming while aligned in nickel formations.

    Many in the national media flipped their wig when the Jets selected their second and third straight defensive linemen in the draft. In creating a much more athletic and versatile set of tweeners along the defensive line, the Jets can leave more players on the field in both pass and rush situations and still be effective at whatever the play throws at them … run or pass. Rex told everyone this was his plan but no-one took him seriously instead preferring to discuss the supposed circus atmosphere that was media created and driven. Rex gets the last laugh!

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