Part six in a series analyzing the New York Jets.
The Jets invested fairly heavily last offseason in their defensive line both with money and a premium draft pick.
In some ways it worked, with the Jets ending up with the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL. In others, it didn’t with the unit getting very little pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The Jets did not make any changes to the defensive line this offseason, apparently happy with the group they had in 2019. The key for the 2020 season is whether the Jets can get more of an interior pass rush than last year. They still are weak at edge-rusher, but a strong rush from the inside of the line could decrease the significance of that weakness.
The player from the defensive line who is going to have the biggest spotlight on him is Quinnen Williams. The Jets drafted him No. 3 overall last year out of Alabama. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams praised him for his ability to play multiple positions on the line and Williams did not have a bad season. He just did not have the impact you expect to see from a player taken No. 3 overall. There were very few signature plays for Williams as a rookie. He finished the year with 2.5 sacks.
This offseason got off to a rocky start for Williams when he was arrested in March for allegedly trying to bring a gun onto a flight at LaGuardia Airport. His case has been delayed with the courts shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unlikely any suspension would occur this season because of that.
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Sources said that before the Jets’ facility was closed, Williams was there frequently working out. He is trying to get into better shape than he was in last year when he had some baby fat.
Though Williams is the young player with a lot to prove, Steve McLendon is back as the veteran leader of the group. McLendon was more than just a locker room Yoda for the Jets last year. He played the best he has since joining the team in 2016. He had 10 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. McLendon was a favorite of the new coaching staff and that is how a player who was undrafted has lasted in the league for this long.
Henry Anderson signed a three-year, $25.2 million deal in March 2019 to stay with the Jets after a strong performance from him in 2018. Whether it was a shoulder injury suffered early in the season or the new scheme, Anderson’s play slipped in 2019. His sack total went from seven in 2018 to one last year. If Anderson can bounce back to his 2018 form, that would immediately strengthen this unit.
Folorunso Fatukasi, Kyle Phillips and Nathan Shepherd all provided good depth along the line last year. Fatukasi made a big jump in his second season and made several impact plays. Phillips made the team as an undrafted free agent and played a big role with his ability to play both on the interior of the line and at outside linebacker. Shepherd missed time due to a PED suspension but he received increased playing time late in the season and was a good depth player.