New York Jets Defensive Line Grade Sheet: Week 8 (Midseason Grades)

There’s really no way to sugarcoat Sunday’s performance in Cincinnati, on either side of the ball. Simply put, Rex Ryan & Co. were outmatched and embarrassed on the road.

While the defense put together another solid performance against the run (holding Cincinnati to just 79 total yards and a 3.2 ypc average), it struggled to have the same impact vs. the pass. The front four was a non-factor in passing situations, thanks in large part to Cincinnati’s quick passing attack–similar to the one employed by Tennessee in the Jets’ Week 4 loss.

Muhammed Wilkerson’s comments followimg the loss focused on a lack of physicality from the Jets’ defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. He’s right. It’s been too easy for opposing offenses to limit the Jets biggest strength (the DL) by highlighting its biggest weakness (the secondary) this season.

While the secondary has provided little help, the defensive line has also been plagued by the lack of an outside pass rush. Quinton Coples continued struggles at “outside linebacker”, along with the loss of Antwan Barnes–arguably the teams’ best pass rusher– has left the Jets with veteran Calvin Pace as its main threat outside, and has put the defensive line in a very tough spot.

That struggle was on display last Sunday and will need to be corrected if the Jets have any chance of stopping the Drew Brees led Saints this week at Metlife Stadium.

Muhammed Wilkerson: 49 Snaps (86%)

  • 4 Tackles (2 Solo)
  • 1 Sack
  • 1 Interception

Grade: A

In a game that saw very few bright spots from the Jets’ perspective, Big Mo once again shined brighter than anyone else. He wrapped up his seventh sack of the season, recorded his first-career interception and finished with four total tackles. His production this season has been out of this world.

Midseason Grade: A

Wilkerson continues to prove that he’s the best player on this defense (and likely on the entire roster). Despite getting the most attention from opposing offenses each week, Mo leads the team with seven sacks and looks downright unblockable at times.

Sheldon Richardson: 47 Snaps (82%)

  • 2 Total Tackles

Grade: B-

The rookie has come back down to earth a bit after an extremely impressive first few weeks in the league, as his presence in passing situations has basically vanished. While he continues to look stellar against the run (a surprise considering his struggles in that department during his college career), his ability to disrupt the pocket in recent weeks has left something to be desired.

This week, Richardson received his lowest grade of the season, as he was quiet for much of game. Richardson finished with just two tackles and was a non-factor in passing situations.

Midseason Grade: B+

Coming out of Missouri, Richardson’s strength was his ability to create pressure on the QB, whether from the DT, DE or LB position. But after getting off to a fast start this season, the rookies’ production has slowed.

Clearly, there’s more emphasis put on Richardson’s ability to consistently disrupt the pocket because of deficiencies elsewhere on the field. And while he’s struggled recently in that area, he’s remained outstanding in another. As his ability to stop the run through eight weeks has kept his name in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Damon Harrison: 31 Snaps (54%)

  • 7 Tackles (3 Solo)

Grade: A

He’s the surprise player on the Jets defense this season, as “Snacks” has quickly gone from undrafted free agent to one of the best nose tackles in the NFL. That trend continued on Sunday for the run-stuffing nose tackle as Harrison was a force up front. He finished the game with seven total tackles, giving him a total of 29 tackles this season.

Midseason Grade: A

Harrison’s been more disruptive in the pocket from the NT position than Rex’s “rush linebacker” and has been as solid against the run as you can ask for. Harrison’s been so good that former third round draft pick, Kenrick Ellis, has spent more than twice as much time standing on the sideline than he has on the field.

Kenrick Ellis: 19 Snaps (33%)

  • 1 Tackle

Grade: C+

If “Snacks” is the surprise player on the defensive line through eight weeks, Ellis is probably the biggest disappointment.

As I’ve noted each week, Ellis’ lack of playing time is a direct result of Harrison’s success this season. And while Rex attempted to get Ellis back on the field more in Cincy (using both Harrison and Ellis together on the line), it’s pretty clear that Ellis just doesn’t provide the same impact as Harrison. When you take a look at some of the more noticeable deficiencies on the defense, Ellis’ skill set really doesn’t provide the type of help that the Jets need.

Midseason Grade: C-

I’m giving Ellis the benefit of the doubt with my midseason grade, as he could likely have a similar impact as Harrison vs. the run if given a fair opportunity. The difference between the two has become more noticeable in recent weeks, as Harrison has actually started to show an ability to collapse the pocket.

Depth on the DL is terrific, and having a beast on the sidelines like Ellis is great insurance. But he’s struggling to get on the field more than 20 percent of the time, and as of right now, doesn’t appear to have much value for a team that’s already great against the run.

Leger Douzable: 13 Snaps (23%)

Grade: C-

Another quiet day for Douzable, whose impact as a rotational player on the defensive line has been limited in recent weeks. It’s tough to get on the field with guys like Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison ahead of you. For the most part, Douzable has still been a solid replacement when called upon.

Midseason Grade: C-