New York Jets – Statistical Objectives for 2017 (Defense)

Dan Essien on statistical objectives for the New York Jets defense in the upcoming 2017 regular season.

The New York Jets are approaching the upcoming season looking for progress from their young, inexperienced roster as they rebuild. The objectives now are to discover potential, see growth, and, in a few cases, see dominance. Thankfully for most positions, that can be measured. Let’s look at some statistical objectives for the Jets players that are important for the team’s future. We’ll also use stats from seasons past of current NFL players as a template or “target model” for these objectives. Here is the offensive version

Disclaimer: Note that these are statistics to aim for and not expectations. Also, target models are mainly for statistical purposes.

Defensive Line

Mo Wilkerson

Objective: Dominance

Stats Goal: 40+ tackles, 7.5+ sacks

Target Model: Cameron Jordan in 2016 (58 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks)

Mo Wilkerson had a rough season last year. He didn’t fully recover from his broken leg in 2015 and his production and effectiveness dropped drastically. Wilkerson, now, seems to truly be back to full health. That’s why his goal should be to re-awaken the super lineman within this season and restore his 2015 form, when he was chasing down Tyrod Taylor with ease.

The ideal template for Wilkerson is Cameron Jordan’s season last year with the Saints. Jordan had 7.5 sacks last season and was equally effective against the run totaling 17 tackles for loss in total. That should be the aim for a player like Wilkerson. Admist the rise of Leonard Williams, Wilkerson still has an opportunity to assert himself as the top tier defensive lineman everyone believed he was just a year ago.

Sheldon Richardson

Objective: Growth

Stats Goal: 5+ sacks

Target Model: Danielle Hunter in 2015 (33 tackles, 6 sacks)

With Leonard Williams a rising star and Mo Wilkerson just being paid a big contract, Sheldon Richardson seems to be the odd man out. However, its still in his and the Jets best interest for Richardson to be on the field as good amount. It sounds like Richardson will no longer be making appearances at OLB, so he can focus on being a terror along the line. The Jets’ best case scenario for him is as a pass rush specialist on 2nd/3rd and long, and rotating in for Williams or Wilkerson.

In that role, a good target for Richardson is Danielle Hunter’s season in 2015. Hunter was a situational pass rusher and a rotational defensive end, and he excelled in that role. His 6 sacks don’t tell the full story of how disruptive Hunter was rushing the quarterback. Richardson is capable of being great at times but he needs to be more consistent. Five or more sacks is a good target for him but, beyond that, the goal is to see him making plays more often than not when he’s on the field. Particularly, if he’s going to be kept fresh while rotating in for Wilkerson and Williams.

Leonard Williams

Objective: Dominance

Stats Goal: 50+ tackles, 10+ sacks

Target Model: Aaron Donald in 2015 (69 tackles, 11 sacks)

Leonard Williams is the best player on the New York Jets and he’s just entering his third year. He’s gone through all the progressions of a star player year by year and now its time for him to leave no doubt. Williams’ aim this year should be to have double digits sacks for the first time in his NFL career and go from very good to one of the best lineman in the league.

The perfect target model for Williams’ 2017 is the year Aaron Donald had in 2015. Donald has shown similar progression to Williams, quickly working his way near the top of the best defensive lineman in the NFL at a young age. In 2015, in his second season, Donald had 11 sacks, and 22 tackles for loss. He was virtually unblock-able and consistently made contact behind the line of scrimmage. That’s what Williams should have as his goal for this season.

Deon Simon

Objective: Growth

Stats Goal: Start 8+ games

Deon Simon is in an interesting position this season. He has shown the Jets coaches plenty, particularly last year in the absence of Steve McLendon. However, instead of just handing Simon the starting job at nose tackle, the Jets have kept McClendon on the roster. Whether it’s actually for incentive or not, Simon should use it as motivation. Simon’s goal for this season is to take the starting job from McClendon and start at least 8 games. He could win the job outright in training camp or preseason, or he can win it at some point during the regular season. The key is for Simon to earn the job and show improvement from last season.

Outside linebackers

Jordan Jenkins

Objective: Growth

Stats Model: 40 tackles, 5+ sacks

Target Model: Calvin Pace in 2014 (39 tackles, 5 sacks)

Jordan Jenkins had a solid first season for the Jets but it didn’t bear out in outlandish stats. Jenkins is a rare breed these days as a edge player who is better against the run than in pass rushing situations. The aim for Jenkins this season is to improve his ability to rush the passer, as well as grow in his strength, which is setting the edge against the run.

A good template for Jenkins this season is that of Calvin Pace in 2014. Regardless of his age, the best attribute Pace had was consistency. He always played to his strengths. Like Jenkins, Pace was better at setting the edge than in pass rush. But Pace was no pushover when rushing the quarterback. If Jenkins can be a consistent anchor and run stopper on the edge and collect 5 or more sacks, he can call his season a success.

Dylan Donahue/Lorenzo Mauldin

Objective: Potential

Stats Goal: 5+ sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Target Model: Brian Robison in 2016

Its either going to be Donahue working his way into a role or Mauldin winning back trust from the coaching staff. Either way one of these two has to make an impact for the Jets on the opposite side of Jordan Jenkins. A good goal is for one of them to match Jenkins with 5 or more sacks.

A good target model for both Mauldin and Donahue is Brian Robison last season. Like Mauldin and Donahue, Robison is not a Von Miller type super pass rusher but he’s a guy with a really high motor and good discipline in his technique. Robison had 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles last season amongst a defense with an incredible front in the Vikings. If the Jets can get that kind of production from one of these two, it means good things for the present and future of their front seven.

Inside linebacker

Darron Lee

Objective: Growth

Stats Goal: Start all 16 games. 100+ tackles, 3+ turnovers responsible for (fumbles/interceptions)

Target Model: Mark Barron in 2015 (116 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended)

Darron Lee showed encouraging signs early last season before he got hurt. Then he seemed to fall behind a bit. This season he needs to use all of the special athletic abilities he has to grow from an on and off player to a reliable playmaker. His goal should be to surpass 100 tackles and force at least 3 turnovers.

While I still think Lee should be obsessively watching Deion Jones tape non-stop (similar role, drafted the same year, put up incredible numbers, balled out in the Super Bowl), his 2016 season is not the target model. The target model for Lee’s season is Mark Barron in 2015. Lee and Barron are actually similar players with similar roles on their respective teams. They both are meant to be not heavy, versatile, and really fast. In 2015, Barron recorded 116 tackles and 4 forced fumbles. The Rams knew he could cover but Barron showed he can make plays in the trenches as well. That’s the aim for Darron Lee. Improved instincts with his speed will increase his tackle total and improving his coverage ability could result in more turnovers.

Note: Can’t leave this position without mentioning Connor Harris. The Jets traded Calvin Pryor for Demario Davis and the plan seems to be to start Davis next to Lee. However, should Harris make a strong impression in training camp and during the regular season, don’t be surprised to see the Jets give him a run at the starting job. Particularly, since now is the perfect time to experiment.

Cornerback

Morris Claiborne

Objective: Growth

Stats Goal: 3+ INTs, 12+ passes defended

Target Model: Xavier Rhodes in 2016 (5 INTs, 11 passes defended)

The Jets signed Morris Claiborne to be their top corner. Plain and simple. The goals for him will go beyond the generic numbers as he will face off against the likes of Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Demaryius Thomas. In addition to the aim for 5 or more interceptions, and 12 or more passes defensed, Claiborne and the Jets defense should also aim to keep those 7 top tier WRs under a total of 700 yard receiving. They’re going to eat (especially Julio Jones) but if they’re all eating in bulk this season, that could negate any progress the rest of the defense can make.

The target model for Claiborne is Xavier Rhodes’ season last year. Rhodes earned his job as the top corner in Minnesota and though he’s much less spoken of than many other household name CBs in the NFL, he’s just as effective. Rhodes against Green Bay, one of the best passing attacks in the NFL, had two stellar games. In week 2, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb were all held under 75 yards receiving (141 yards combined). Week 4, Rhodes gave Odell Beckham Jr. fits, holding him to 3 catches for 23 yards. In week 5, Deandre Hopkins was kept under 75 yards (5 catches 56 yards). You get the picture. Rhodes wasn’t always spectacular and but more often than not he limited the opposing team’s top receiver. That’s what Claiborne’s main focus should be.

Juston Burris

Objective: Growth

Stats Goal: 3+ INTs, 10+ pass defenses

Target Model: Chris Harris Jr. in 2012 (3 INTs, 12 pass defenses)

Juston Burris had an intriguing first season for the Jets. He got plenty of playing time and showed some good traits but also looked lost at times. Now the Jets will look to see growth from their young corner. Burris will see the ball thrown his way even more this season, starting opposite of Claiborne. Burris’ aim should be to have 3 or more interceptions, 12 or more passes defensed, and show improvement in his coverage on deep passes.

A good template for Burris is the season Chris Harris Jr. had for Denver in 2012. Harris is now a star and a perennial Pro Bowl CB but then he wasn’t as well known. In 2012, Harris had 3 INTs and 12 pass defenses. But, most importantly, he showed he had the coverage skills to be a good starting corner in the NFL. That should be Burris’ focus. He will face legit competition from Daryl Roberts and Marcus Williams this season, who both have shown some potential in different ways. Burris’ aim should be to set himself apart as Harris did in 2012.

Note: Another interesting area to watch is the nickel corner position. As of now, Buster Skrine probably isn’t in the long term plans for the Jets during this rebuild due to contract and performance last season. If he bounces back the Jets will probably keep him around. But, if he doesn’t, there’s a name to watch: Dexter McDougle.

Safety

Jamal Adams

Objective: Potential

Stats Goal: 80+ tackles, 5+ turnovers responsible for, 10+ pass defenses

Target Model: Harrison Smith in 2012 (104 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 11 pass defenses)

Jamal Adams, the Jets 2017 first round draft pick, is the player everyone wants to see. In his first season, there will be highs and there will be lows. But the key is that at the end we should see enough to be overjoyed at his potential. The goal for him is to be a playmaker all over the field. The Jets did not force enough turnovers last season. Adams should have a big hand in turning that around and be involved in at least 5 turnovers this season.

This might be surprising to some because of how little he is spoken of but the statistical model for Adams should be Harrison Smith in 2012. The Vikings safety was in his rookie season when put up an impressive 104 tackles and 11 pass defenses. He also managed 2 touchdowns that season. His start gave the Vikings a good idea of the type of player he was capable of becoming and, sure enough, he’s now one of the most important pieces on their defense. I believe Adams has the potential to be even better than Smith but he needs to show some of the promise this season.

Marcus Maye

Objective: Potential

Stats Goal: 75+ tackles, 3+ turnovers responsible for, 10+ pass defenses

Target Model: Reshad Jones in 2012 (94 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 9 pass defenses)

Marcus Maye was the Jets 2nd round draft pick in the 2017 draft. He also comes in with big expectations. Both Adams and Maye are combo safeties who are capable of causing havoc. Maye will likely assume the traditional free safety role more than Adams but the goal for him is similar: Force turnovers and be a ball hawk. He also needs to show he can break up plays deep downfield.

The target model for Maye’s rookie season is Reshad Jones in 2012. Jones is now one of the better safeties in the NFL, but 2012 was the season he showed what he was capable of. Jones was a terror on the field. He was a turnover magnet (4 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries), and he excelled in coverage. Its important to note that Jones was a third year player finally getting his chance to start in 2012. So, while its optimistic to expect this in Maye’s first season, its the right aim for him to strive for.

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com