TOJ’s In The Trenches: New York Jets Defensive Line Review, Week One

In our weekly In The Trenches series we’ll focus on the performances of the Jets’ offensive and defensive lines throughout the season. In this edition, Dan discusses the performance of the defensive line in the Jets’ week 1 loss to the Panthers. We’ll also preview the unit’s matchup with the Patriots in week 2.

Week 1 Summary

The New York Jets’ defensive line didn’t perform up to their lofty standards in week 1. Going up against a subpar Panthers’ offensive line, they certainly should’ve impacted much more than they did. The Jets had significant advantages, particularly on the interior but the Panthers held their own for most of the game. While, overall, the defensive line didn’t make a major impact, they did show some promising patterns. Let’s look at how to performed statistically against the run and in the pass rush.

Run defense

The Panthers managed 111 rushing yards as a team, averaging 4.1 yards per carry (league average was 4.4 YPC in 2020). They utilized a smart approach on offense to get traction in the run game. They utilized stretch plays and sweeps often so they were rarely just running headfirst into the strength of the Jets’ defense. The Jets will need better from their outside linebackers and secondary getting off of blocks and cleaning up plays that spill outside the front four.

Pass Rush

The Panthers and Sam Darnold did a good job of getting the ball out quick, particularly in the first half, to neutralize the Jets’ pass rush. However, the Jets’ defensive line was wining their matchups for the most part. According to ESPN Analytics, the Jets had the highest pass-rush win rate in the NFL in week 1 at 80%. That’s 13% higher than the 2nd best (LA Chargers). They were able to get a decent amount of pressure on Darnold, particularly in the second half. They finished with 8 QB hits but only one sack. They need to convert more pressures into sacks but part of that also depends on the secondary buying them time in coverage.

Week 1 Standout: John Franklin-Myers

John Franklin-Myers was quite the silver lining against the Panthers. He finished with 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 QB hits. He was the standout performer amongst the group for me. Saleh was able to move him around on the defensive line and he excelled wherever he was. From the early looks of it, he will certainly be pushing others for playing time if he can stay this consistent as both a run stopper and a pass rusher.

Week 2 Preview

The Jets take on the New England Patriots in week 2. The matchup for the defensive line is not quite as favorable as the week 1 matchup but there will be some areas they can exploit. The Patriots could be shorthanded on Sunday with Patriots’ starting right tackle Trent Brown not practicing this week while dealing with a calf injury. The Jets could have favorable matchups on the outside if there’s a backup filling in for Brown. On the inside, however, the Jets and Patriots will be matching strength with strength. They need a big game from Quinnen Williams, JFM, and Foley Fatukasi to shut down the Patriots running game and put the game in rookie QB Mac Jones’ hands.

X-Factor: Quinnen Williams’ Health

Quinnen Williams had a fairly quiet game in week 1. He looked particularly labored in the second half, perhaps the result of not having a full offseason and/or lingering effects from the injury. We should start to see more glimpses of the Q we all know and love in week 2 as he gets into regular-season shape. The Jets need him to be consistently elite this season.