12 things on the New York Jets defense heading into 2019…
1 – Jamal Adams: The player on the unit who had the best 2018 and is arguably the best overall player on the team (it is between him, Le’Veon Bell and CJ Mosley). Adams has quickly evolved into the emotional leader of the team and the fanbase’s favorite player. More importantly, he made notable strides in year two in coverage and remained the versatile chess piece on the back end he was in his rookie year and throughout his time at LSU. Adams is scheme agnostic. He thrived in Todd Bowles’ defense. He will thrive in Gregg Williams defense. Teams will keep challenging him in the passing game and he will get two early season tests with David Njoku and Zach Ertz. For Adams to take the next step in 2019, he’ll need to be involved in forcing a few more turnovers and limit his missed tackles, an area he improved on last year but still has room to grow in. It will be interesting to see the percentage breakdown on his alignment under Williams and if he spends more time as a traditional strong safety with less as a slot corner, free safety and linebacker. There is no reason to expect him to be blitzing any less and if anything, those opportunities should increase.
2 – CJ Mosley: The recipient of one of the most head turning contracts of the NFL offseason, Mosley is a great inside linebacker in his prime. Two things can be true at once: you can acknowledge how good of a football player Mosley is and also be doubtful he is going to play to the value of 17 million dollars per year. Teams are going to try to attack the Jets by spreading them out since they have chosen to build their defense up the middle with so much investment in interior defensive linemen, inside linebackers and safeties, it is on Mosley to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of. He is capable in pass coverage but it certainly isn’t the strongest element of his game. If he can good enough there for teams like New England and Philadelphia not to pick on him, the Jets are going to be hard to beat defensively as they are more naturally equipped for offenses like Buffalo and Dallas.
3 – Quinnen Williams: The 3rd overall pick who is expected to provide more juice as a pass rusher than most interior linemen. One of the questions early in the season is what the rep percentage breakdown will there be between both Williams and Henry Anderson. Is Quinnen going to start out playing 80-90% of the snaps or are the Jets going to gradually ramp him and we’ll only see him around 60% of the snaps in the first parts of the season? There is a ton of alignment possibilities with the Jets defensive front and it will be on Williams to maximize the production of his interior players. The Jets went light on edge investment this offseason, so let’s hope Quinnen can contribute more than a handful of sacks and quarterback pressures right out of the gate.
4 – Leonard Williams: Now relegated to being the “Other Williams,” it is a contract season for the first pick of the Mike Maccagnan Era. One of the most debated players on the Jets roster, Williams has bounced between very good and completely unnoticeable throughout his four years with the Jets. As it stands now, he needs to prove he can be more of an impact player week to week. At the end of the day, nobody cares about your almost sacks like nobody cares about your almost transactions (sorry Maccagnan), Williams has no excuse about being double teamed as Henry Anderson was double teamed more than him last year and was more productive, nevermind the addition of Quinnen. If Williams plays at the same level in 2019 that he did in 2017 and 2018, they shouldn’t hesitate to let him in free agency and take their compensatory pick back.
5 – Trumaine Johnson: The X-Factor on the Jets 2019 defense. You can survive with an average cornerback group, which the Jets may have if Johnson reverts back to his 2016 and 2017 form but you cannot survive with a flat out bad cornerback group, which the Jets are going to have if Johnson is the same player he was last year. His contract already looks disastrous but hopefully he can stay healthy this year and regain some type of stability on the outside while being a playmaker on the back end.
6 – Marcus Maye: It is hard to know what the Jets have in Maye at this point. He started off his rookie season strong, struggled down the stretch and then basically had a lost sophomore campaign due to injuries. We further saw glimpses of the player he could as a complement to Adams last year but the Jets need him for 16 games because their safety depth is weak at best. Maye is most likely to man the “punt return” alignment position for a safety that Williams’ defense has become notorious for and can hopefully provide some stability with a likely shaky cornerback group in front of him. Similar to Johnson, he is very much a X-Factor for this unit next season.
7 – Avery Williamson: A steady starter at inside linebacker heading into his second year with the team, who should have an easier life with Mosley next to him instead of Darron Lee. Williamson is mildly overrated by most fans (he is nowhere near an All-Pro caliber player as some seem to think) but he is fine as a starter, strong against the run and usually some type of liability against the pass. Teams are going to attack him and Mosley with their running backs and tight ends in the passing game but the Jets don’t have many options if they want to take him off the field as they have limited depth at inside linebacker, corner and safety.
8 – Brian Poole: The new slot corner who has a similar style of play to his predecessor, Buster Skrine, with a little more size and athleticism. Poole faded a bit after a strong rookie year in Atlanta and will be manning one of the hardest positions to play football with questionable outside support in Johnson and Daryl Roberts. Expect Gregg Williams to regularly use him as a blitzer.
9 – Jachai Polite: Despite being a rookie third rounder, Polite is probably already the Jets best pure pass rusher at edge already. They need him to quickly get up to speed to make an impact in their rotation alongside Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Copeland and Frankie Luvu. If Polite can be an impact player in year one, the ceiling on this defense gets substantially higher after they sat out edge in the free agent market.
10 – Daryl Roberts: The Jets have made the surprising decision to roll with Roberts (for now) as a starter at outside corner. He has been okay as a role player and spot starter in recent years but it will be risky counting on him for 16 games. If Roberts can meet or achieve the up and down play from Morris Claiborne the past two years, the Jets will have effectively and cheaply treaded water at the position but long term, there is more serious investment needed.
11 – Henry Anderson: Anderson cashed in on a career season from both a production and health prospective in 2018. From 2015-2017, Anderson had 3 career sacks and missed a combined 19 games. Last season, he had 7 sacks and didn’t miss a single game. The Jets overpaid badly if he regresses to the man in any way but if he can stay healthy, he should have plenty of favorable matchups with both Williams around him and may be able to approximate last year’s sack total.
12 – Steve McLendon: Not a flashy player but a leader in the locker room, who is an effective two down nose tackle. His role could be marginalized at times if the Jets are looking for ways to get Anderson, Williams and Williams out there together more frequently but at his contract size, keeping him for one more year was wise, especially since Foley Fatukasi showed nothing last year (either did Nathan Shepherd).