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

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 8 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and preview their week 9 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.

Week 8 Summary

The Jets defensive line had a decent performance against the Bengals overall, but what stood out was that they made the most important plays of the game. At the end of the day, how a unit affects winning is its most important contribution. The Bengals offense overall has been impressive this season and they continued that on Sunday, but the Jets stopped them when they needed to with great red-zone defense and impact plays from the defensive line.

Run Defense

The Bengals didn’t run much but they were not successful when they did. The Jets held them to just 41 yards on 16 attempts for an average of 2.6 yards per carry. To put that into perspective, the Bengals on season are averaging 98.6 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. The Jets held them well under their averages.

Pass Rush

The Jets pass rush started to show the dominance they displayed earlier in the season once again, as they finished with 3 sacks and 5 QB hits. As mentioned earlier, each game changing play seemed to come from the defensive line in passing situations. In particular, Quinnen Williams’ 4th down sack (shown above), and Shaq Lawson’s game changing interception in the 4th quarter were big momentum swings. The team, as a whole, looked improved against screens as well. That should help get the pass rush efficiency back on track as they continue steering teams away from utilizing that strategy to motivate the pass rush.

Week 8 Standout: Sheldon Rankins

Sheldon Rankins had another outstanding performance. He always seems to show up particularly when the game is on the line. Rankins finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 QB hit. He’s now 5th in the NFL in pass rush win rate amongst IDL (Quinnen Williams is 4th).

Week 9 Preview

This week the Jets defensive line faces a statistically average offensive line with the Colts but one that presents some intriguing matchups. The Colts offensive line is 20th in pass block win rate and 21st in run block win rate. Football Outsiders has them ranked 15th in run blocking and 17th in adjusted sack rate. By that metric alone, the Jets should be able to have some success.

The individual matchups are where things get interesting. Quenton Nelson, one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, is questionable for Thursday’s game with a toe injury. If he’s a go, however, it presents a big challenge inside for the Jets defensive line. The Colts also just got back starting right tackle Braden Smith so they won’t be as simple a challenge as they appear statistically for the Jets.

X-Factor: Quinnen Williams

The Jets need an elite performance from Quinnen Williams on Thursday, especially if Quenton Nelson is in the lineup. Williams leads the team with 4.5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. He’s still yet to truly unlock the type of performances he started putting together towards the end of last season. We need to see the unblockable version of Q on Thursday.

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