New York Jets Defensive Line Grade Sheet: Week 17 (Season Grades)

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Sunday’s win over Miami in the 2013 season finale was a good one for Jets’ fans, players and coaches alike, as the offense put together one of its most impressive performances of the season, and the defense held the Dolphins to just seven points–a season best for New York.

And while the performance helped the Jets climb back to .500 in the final week of the season, the struggles up front persisted, as the production from the defensive line continued to deteriorate.

It became a trend late this season–whether due to offensive game plans, fatigue or injury–to see the defensive line struggle to create pressure on the quarterback. In addition to the struggles in passing situations, the run defense, too, had its issues, as the Jets surrendered over 100 yards on the ground in four of its final five games. While that number isn’t anything to panic over (the defense allowed 88.2 yards per game this season), it’s important to remember that teams were barely rushing for 80 YPG on this defense throughout much of the season.

But the biggest issue up front late in the season was the Jets’ inability to get to the quarterback. It continued on Sunday, as the defense mustered only three hits on Miami quarterback, Ryan Tannehill–none of which came from the defensive line.

It’s no surprise, though, that when the Jets were able to pressure Tannehill, it changed the game. On two of Tannehill’s three interceptions on Sunday, the Jets’ pressure up the middle forced poor throws, resulting in two turnovers.

Let’s take a look at those plays:

Rich1

Here, Sheldon Richardson is lined up on the outside shoulder of left guard, Nate Garner (3-tech). 

Rich2In a one-on-one situation, Richardson’s inside move proves too quick for Garner. With Wilkerson dealing with a double team on the opposite side, the Jets’ DROY candidate gets a clear path to Tannehill.

Rich3With Richardson bearing down, Tannehill finds his receiver cutting across the field (pictured below).

Rich4

Rich5It’s Richardson’s pressure, though, that causes Tannehill to overthrow his receiver (yellow), leading to a tipped ball and an interception by Ed Reed (red). 

The second play is very similar, this time with Ledger Douzable creating the pressure that would lead to the Tannehill interception:

LD1On this play, Douzable, lined up to the outside of left tackle Bryant McKinnie (5-tech), stunts to the inside, while inside linebacker, David Harris, blitzes the B Gap.

LD2With McKinnie blocking Harris (red) and Wilkerson facing another double team (black), it frees up Douzable to create pressure up the middle.

LD3

Dolphins’ center, Mike Pouncey, isn’t able to slide over in time, as Douzable’s pressure up the middle forces Tannehill to rush his throw. That leads to another overthrow from the Miami QB, resulting in Dee Milliner’s second interception of the game (pictured below). 

LD4

 

Looking Back On 2013

Watching a rebuilding football team can fill a season with ups and downs, questions about the future, and concerns regarding the needs of the roster. That, in a nutshell, was the experience of many Jets fans in 2013.

While there are concerns all over the roster, the brightest spot on this team from Week One through Week 17 was the defensive line.

Muhammed Wilkerson continued his ascent as one of the top defensive lineman in the league, while rookie Sheldon Richardson and second-year undrafted free agent, Damon Harrison, emerged as two of the more surprising defensive stars in the NFL.

There was lots of pressure put on this defensive line this season, much of which created unfair expectations when coupled with the deficiencies in other areas on the defense.

With a struggling secondary and less-than-effective blitz packages and personnel, the onus was on the defensive line to pressure the QB. That task was certainly daunting–and at times, too daunting.

While the defensive line certainly had its deficiencies, this season offered a look to the future. Pieces are clearly missing on this defense, but if the front office remains steadfast in its plan, the defensive line should be an overwhelming strength for this team for years to come.

The most noticeable deficiency when breaking down the Jets’ issues on the defensive line is the need for speed on the outside. Antwan Barnes offered Rex Ryan’s defense exactly that before his injury, and the hope is that he can rehab his knee and come back just as effective next season.

Quinton Coples is another extremely important piece of the pass rush. He really started to flash during the final six weeks of the season and should come into the 2014 campaign with very high expectations. If he can consistently provide pressure off the edge next season, the defensive line should be even more productive.

Aside from rushing the passer, the Jets defensive line will benefit from an improved secondary in 2014. As we witnessed late this season (and in years past), an improved secondary can help mask some deficiencies in the pass rush. Further improvements to the secondary this offseason will undoubtably lead to better production from the defensive line next year.

The Grades:

Muhammed Wilkerson: 61 Snaps (95%)

  • 2 Total Tackles (1 Solo)

Another lackluster performance from Wilkerson, who saw his play fall off a bit in the last few weeks of the season. He was basically invisible as a pass rusher on Sunday, as he struggled to create pressure against one of the worst offensive lines in football.

Grade: B-

2013 was Mo’s best year as a pro as he was awarded second-team All Pro honors. Coming off an impressive 2012 campaign, this season was another step in the right direction for one of the most versatile defensive lineman in football. At times, stats can be misleading. That’s never more true than with Wilkerson who finished the season with 64 tackles and 10.5 sacks. There’s lots of emphasis put on sacks in this league, but Mo isn’t your typical defensive lineman. Rex Ryan asked Wilkerson to play all along the defensive line, placing him inside about as much as he did outside. With the majority of the attention being paid to Wilkerson, his importance to the defense really can’t be quantified by looking over the stat sheet. Regardless, Mo’s the one person I’d expect to thrive most from some added pieces on the outside. With more speed at linebacker and offseason improvement from rookie Sheldon Richardson, the expectations for Wilkerson will be even higher heading into 2014 than they were this season.

2013 Final Grade: A

Sheldon Richardson: 42 Snaps (66%)

  • 1 Solo Tackle

Like Wilkerson, Richardson’s season finale wasn’t representative of his accomplishments in 2013. While the rookie saw his snap count fall way down as a result of a hip injury, he was still able to make an impact in the game as shown above with his one QB pressure resulting in an interception.

Grade: B-

Coming out of Missouri, Richardson was seen as an extremely athletic defensive lineman who could create pass rushing opportunities but struggle to stop the run. One season in the NFL and those expectations were turned upside down as Richardson proved to be one of the best defensive lineman in football stopping the run. Moving forward, Richardson needs to refine his pass rushing moves. He’ll need to learn to use his hands more, and lower his pad level when rushing the QB. But looking forward, it’s safe to say that this guy, who has tremendous athleticism for a man his size, certainly looks to have a bright future in this league.

2013 Final Grade: B+

Leger Douzable: 26 Snaps (41%)

  • 2 Solo Tackles

With Richardson hurting, Douzable saw his snap count go way up. As he has much this season, the elder statesman on the defensive line made the most of his opportunities, as his one pressure on the QB, like Richardson, resulted in an interception (pictured above). 

Grade: B-

Another huge surprise on the defensive line, Douzable will likely be in high demand as a free agent this offseason. He seemed to find a nitch in Rex’s defense, proving to be one of the most valuable rotational defensive lineman in the league. When you don’t see much of a dropoff between your starters and backups, it’s a great thing. The Jets got that from Douzable this season.

2013 Final Grade: B 

Damon Harrison: 16 Snaps (25%)

  • 5 Tackles (4 Solo)
  • 1 Tackle For Loss

With the Jets using a lot of their nickel package, Harrison saw his snaps go way down on Sunday. Considering he didn’t even get 20 snaps, his five total tackles is pretty impressive. That number could have been even higher, but Harrison saw a few sure tackles slip through his fingers–an issue that’s been lingering for a few weeks now.

Grade: B+

Harrison may have been the biggest surprise on the defensive line (or the entire defense) this season. From relatively unknown to one of the top nose tackles in football, Harrison was a beast against the run and essentially made the man most thought would be the starting nose tackle, Kenrick Ellis, an unnecessary commodity on this team. Not only was Harrison terrific against the run for much of the season, but he was also able to create pressure up the middle along with Wilkerson and Richardson. While he tailed off a bit late in the year (a sign of fatigue), this season was undoubtably a success for the UDFA.

2013 Final Grade: A

Kenrick Ellis: 13 Snaps (20%)

  • 1 Solo Tackle

When Harrison’s snaps go down, you can bet you’ll see the same for Ellis. With just over a dozen opportunities on the field, Ellis’ impact was limited. But, as he did all season long, Ellis continued to play well as a prototypical nose tackle, filling gaps, taking on blockers, and stuffing the run.

Grade: B

Ellis didn’t see the time on the field that many assumed he would this season, thanks to the success of Harrison. While he may not have the same value to the Jets as many believed before the season, it’s hard to imagine that a 3-4 team in need of a nose tackle wouldn’t be intrigued in acquiring the monstrous NT.  He’s terrific against the run and was able to stay healthy for much of the season–likely a result of limited snaps. Depth on the defensive line is important, but with so much versatility already on the DL (assuming the Jets can retain Douzable), I wouldn’t be shocked if they shop Ellis this offseason.

2013 Final Grade: B

  • David

    If they keep Ellis, what would be the draft pick compensation if he was to be signed by another team.

    That would be the starting point for compensation, but if it was not a third round pick or better, why would you trade him. Can’t replace him with a 5th rounder

  • Chris j

    Why does every freaking article on this website bring up trading Ellis?? These big athletic men are such rare commodities, why would we trade him for a 5th 6th rd pick in a draft where we already have an abundance of picks

  • JerryB

    I would not trade Ellis for anything except a #1 draft choice or an established top WR. He was a 3rd round project from a small school that developed into a top NT and has played like a first round pick. If you needed a NT would you rather have one that has proven he belongs in the NFL or take a chance with a high draft pick?

  • Joe Caporoso

    Fine if you disagree with notion of trading Ellis but you are overrating him saying he has developed into a top NT and played like a first round pick. Simply isn’t close to being true. He barely logged 20 snaps per game this season and was good, not great when he played.

  • Lidman

    I love Ellis’ size, athletic ability and potential. That’s exactly why you shop him this off-season, because I’m sure there are a number of NFL front offices, that see and like, the same things. It doesn’t mean you have to trade him (and I don’t think Joe is saying that), but if the NYJ were to get 12 picks and you could swap Ellis and one of their 3rd rounders, for a 2nd, to get another offensive weapon, you probably do that. Or you trade Ellis and a 2nd/3rd rounder to get a Pro Bowl caliber WR, you probably do that.

    Remember, as much as he gives the NYJ depth, after next year he’ll be a FA and they risk losing him for nothing, but a compensation pick, which at best will come at the end of the 3rd round, in 2016. On top of that, he played in less than 25% of their games, so if they can get a piece, who they believe, who they will give the opportunity, to improve their offense, or secondary, they should do that. Rex has proven he can teach/coach the D-Line position, which should give fans confidence the next great NT isn’t far away.

  • Lidman

    I meant he played in less than 25% of their snaps, not games.

  • MikeK

    OK so tell us all what are you going to trade Ellis for I need a laugh

  • Joe Caporoso

    A 5th round pick would be good value for him. And laugh away while forgetting Jeremy Kerley was a 5th round pick. You seem to forget that Ellis will walk next season in FA and not net a high compensatory pick or one at all, since he barely plays for the Jets since he is buried on the depth chart.

  • MikeK

    @Lidman What happens if Harrison goes down? He has had 2 knee surgeries already and Harrison did wear down towards the end of the season. I expect Douzable to be gone next year if Dallas does not sign him they are nuts. You can’t expect to have 3 D Lineman play the whole year.

  • MikeK

    Joe so basically you are trading a 3rd pick for a 5th round pick. Go look at the Jets draft history and see all the great talent that was drafted in the 5th round. Jets finally got it right with Kerley but beside him it has been pretty close to terrible. So give up the known talent for the unknown draft pick.

  • Joe Caporoso

    All I’ve ever said is that if they bring Douzable back, they should consider looking at trade market for him. See zero issue that.

  • KAsh

    Fifth-round pick is honestly not enough. Yes, he is buried on the depth chart on our depth chart, but he can be a starter, if given the chance. In his final year with the Saints, Ivory was used on just 10.8% of all rushes. They got a fourth-round pick for someone who was barely on the field for them. They packaged that pick with their original fourth-rounder and picked a nose tackle in the third.

    The cutoff for Ellis should be a fourth-round pick. He is buried on our depth chart, but he has been phenomenal in the few snaps he has gotten. A second-round draft pick would probably have much more impact than Ellis over the next few years. So a third-round pick or a trade for another player similarly buried on some depth chart should be proper value.

  • Lidman

    MikeK..if you read what I write, I’m saying you investigate what he’s worth. I don’t agree with Joe on a 5th rounder, largely because, after compensatory picks, the NYJ are likely going to have 10-12 draft picks, with most of them being 5th and 6th rounders. If that is the case, they I would rather keep a known quantity, for cheap depth, than a high round draft choice that is not likely to contribute next year, if at all.

    As for what I would trade him for, I’d have to look at every roster. However, just off the top of my head, I would certainly ask Dallas, who has major cap issues and needs DL help, and find out if they’d entertain Terrance Williams, because they have enough offense. I’d also call Chicago and ask about Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Marshall has no guaranteed money, but is owed 9.3mm. So, while Chi wouldn’t have any cap hit in cutting him, I’m not sure Marshall-still a top 8 WR, would be open to taking a big pay cut. Chicago only has 30 players under contract, for ’14, and are at just over 100mm vs the cap, and needs help all over that defense. Maybe they want to keep Marshall for Cutler, and maybe they entertain moving Jeffery. Is it likely? No. But, who knows if you offer Ellis and a 3rd round pick? If I can use Ellis to improve the skill positions, I would do that.

    To your question: ‘what happens if Harrison gets hurt?’ You can’t plan for injuries, so I don’t know what would happen. Sure, it would be great if we had an Ellis to back him up. However, this team needs playmakers on offense and using your depth is one way to acquire those players. As I said, Rex has proven very capable of developing big run stuffers: Pouha, DeVito and now Harrison and Douzable. They have 2 big DTs on their Practice Squad now: TJ Barnes and Tevita Finau, maybe one of them will be their big surprise next year.

    Joe is right on this: After 2014, Ellis will be a FA, and their a very little chance the Jets will be able to afford to keep him, at what the market will pay, because of how few snaps he plays for them.

  • KAsh

    It also does not matter when Ellis was drafted. It is not like Ellis upgraded his status from third-rounder to second-rounder. He spent three years on the team getting coached up and has lost his starting spot to a younger, better player. He has won no awards and has gotten very limited recognition. Expecting anything above a third-round pick is misdiagnosing what you have.

  • Lidman

    While I don’t agree with Kash on a lot of things, I do agree that once a player is drafted, you can’t trade him for something lower than where he was drafted. By that argument, you wouldn’t take a 3rd rounder for Vlad or Stephen Hill, or a 2nd for Kyle Wilson. Once the draft is over, it’s over and you rate guy’s on their performance.

    Is Ellis, alone, worth a 3rd rounder? No, I don’t think you can say that based on how he’s performed his first 3 seasons. Is there potential there, based on that play? Yes, I think there is which is why I think you try and pair him with a draft pick to get a player or higher draft pick.

  • caramelo koala

    Ellis was way better than good when he played. I think PFF had him as the top NT in the league on a per snap basis. I wouldnt trade him unless we got an offer we couldnt knock back. He is cheap and under contract

  • Mark Phelan

    What’s wrong with trading Snacks and extending Ellis?

    I know we love him, but think of how much more he would bring.

  • Lidman

    Mark..I brought that up earlier as well. The question is, with how few snaps Ellis got, doesn’t that tell us who the coaching staff values more..maybe 1 guy works harder? On top of that, what would ‘Snacks’ bring us back, compared to Ellis?

    Ellis’ skill set is easy to fall in love with, but Harrison simply produced. That said, in the few pass snaps Ellis got, he was a much better ‘pusher of the pocket’ than Snacks. However, the idiocy of front offices, in all sports, is falling in love, and overpaying, for potential and ignoring production..when you look at how God awful Dallas, Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and others (but these were teams who must missed or, in GBs case, barely made, playoffs)were at stopping the interior run game, selling Ellis’ potential might be the better move. The NYJ simply don’t know how he’d perform over a long season.

    Who would we get to fill in for Ellis? Hopefully, this guy has a poor combine and slips…because all he does is produce, on the field: http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/draft/player/_/id/33621/will-sutton

  • Frank Antonelli

    How about we keep both of them and not weaken our team by trading one for a measly return. The fact that we can rotate our lineman and not see a dramatic drop off is a strength most teams would love to have. We have enough cap space and draft picks to address our needs without weakening our defensive line.

  • KAsh

    @Frank

    You severely underestimate our needs. We have no depth anywhere except two d-linemen, one who is a free agent and will likely leave, the other who is a free agent next year and will likely leave then. The very best case scenario for this team, in terms of taking care of needs, is for Coples to develop into a solid linebacker, Davis to lock down one of the ILB spots, Harris to not age, Allen to evolve into a starting strong safety, Milliner to man one corner spot while either Cromartie comes back to full health or Walls steps up, Mangold and Ferguson return to form, Winters improves greatly, Colon is brought back and continues to stay healthy, Hill comes into the fold in year 3, Goodson comes back free from his legal issues, Sudfeld drops the “Baby” from “Baby Gronk,” and Geno Smith and Matt Simms solidify themselves as NFL quarterbacks. Even with all of that – most of which is nowhere close to guaranteed – we still lack one starting outside linebacker, an outside free safety, and I cannot even imagine who can be our flanker. Zero depth everywhere on the roster (and some positions with no serious starters) and you are afraid of dealing a depth player to try to improve the roster.

    @Lidman

    I actually said the opposite of what you thought I said. You can trade Ellis for a fourth-round pick. I personally think his value is higher than that, but just because he was drafted in the third-round does not mean that that is where the floor was set for him.

    Ellis has spent three years being coached by Dunbar and then was great in the few times he played this year. But his trade value is determined by which round the Jets picked him in? You buy a car and sell it three years later. Does the quality of the junkyard you bought it from play any part in what its value will be? Or two people each buy one of the same car model, then invest $5000 into remodeling them. If one can make his $5000 go three times further than the other guy, should the cars still be worth the same?

    Ellis’s value comes from his play on the field. No one cares where he was drafted. He barely sees the field, so there might be some concern about his ability to endure a full workload, but he was borderline dominant when he did come off the bench. That is all that matters. Looking at what Ellis would offer to the GM of another team, I would say that Ellis offers more value, both long- and short-term, than a third-round draft pick, but less value than a second-round pick (a player that is three years younger and I suspect is very likely to develop into a very good and long-term player on my team).

  • Mark Phelan

    Maybe we already have TOO many DLs. Is anyone really thrilled with how Couples has been stationed?

    How about Richardson at starting NT – Couples to his right, and Ellis joining the mix when indicated.

    We need to upgrade our LB’s – especially pass coverage and rush. The hybrid position Couples has occupied has taken one, maybe 2 pieces off our defensive chess board.

  • Lidman

    Kash…we were saying the same thing..fat fingers on my part: “While I don’t agree with Kash on a lot of things, I do agree that once a player is drafted, you can’t trade him for something ”

    Should read CAN, not CAN’T. I think my examples of Hill and K Wilson illustrate..poor proofing on my part.

    I still think the best way to maximimze Ellis’ value is find a player with a similar cap hit, on a team that couldn’t stop the run. I think trading him for Terrence Williams is a move that would benefit both NY and Dallas.

    Frank, your point is well taken. However, in the NFL the GM has to be thinking 1 and 2yrs out, all the time. So, while Ellis would make for nice depth, he’ll also wind up being a FA following next year. Other teams see what we see, so keeping him-ala Mike DeVito-will probably be hard (you can’t pay starter money to a back up). On top of this, you have a coaching staff that has proven it’s ability to find, and develop DLine talent. Moving Ellis, to improve the team, to me is trading a strength to improve a weakness. If we got a T Williams, or used Ellis and a pick to move up to get a desired player, I can see doing it. However, I wouldn’t trade away that depth, to pick up a 4th, or higher, round pick. Ellis, if here, will help this team next year. It’s not likely anyone drafted in, or beyond, round 4 will have as big an impact. Plus, if he signs elsewhere, the NYJ are likely to receive a compensation pick the following year.

  • Frank Antonelli

    @kash. You’re pessimism knows no bounds! It’s amazing we even won a game according to your assessment of the Jets! Any objective observer can see that the Jets are in prime position, unlike last off-season, to not only add some significant starters but also to improve the overall depth of this team. The wildcard is how much will Geno develop in his second season.