The New York Jets‘ defense has been nothing short of special for the most part through the first nine games of 2022. The unit has been a key catalyst to the 6-3 record at the bye.
This start follows what was a forgettable 2021, a year in which the Jets’ defense ranked last in football quite comfortably, giving up an average of 397.6 yards per game.
Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, and Jeff Ulbrich all deserve a ton of credit for this fast turnaround to dominance.
This offseason, Douglas added some key difference-makers in Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed, along with savvy veterans in Jordan Whitehead and Kwon Alexander and talented young defensive ends Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons.
Saleh has shown much maturation as both a head coach and defensive leader. With the defense, Saleh has gotten improved talent and quality depth that fits his identity, and it has allowed the scheme to take over and thrive.
With a better supporting cast, Ulbrich has also taken off and shown drastic growth as a play-caller for this unit.
The Jets’ defense ranks in the top 11 of essentially every key team category to this point.
Overall, they rank seventh in the NFL, allowing 312 yards per game. The pass defense is currently the 11th-best in football, giving up 201.1 yards per game. Against the run, the Jets are averaging 110.9 yards given up a week, which is the ninth-best in the league. They are tied for eighth in points allowed per game with 19.6.
In terms of the splash, big impact plays, the Jets’ defense has also delivered. The pass rush has totaled 26 sacks, which is tied for the sixth-best in football. The Jets’ defense is also tied for second in interceptions with 11.
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Defensive line headlined by All-Pro, tons of depth:
While there are many deserving players, potentially no Jet player has been better this year than Quinnen Williams. He is more than deserving of being an All-Pro at this point. Williams has seven sacks, 35 pressures, and 18 defensive stops. He is on pace for 13 sacks, 66 pressures, and 34 defensive stops. One dominant breakout year.
The Jets’ other three starting defensive linemen, John Franklin-Myers, Carl Lawson, and Sheldon Rankins, have all been great as well. In terms of sacks, Lawson has four, Franklin-Myers 2.5, and Rankins, 2.0. Franklin-Myers had five pressures in Sunday’s win over the Bills. In Lawson’s most dominant game, he recorded seven quarterback hits.
The noteworthy depth up front consists of four edge defenders in Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, Micheal Clemons, and Vinny Curry.
Johnson has 2.5 sacks in just 113 snaps. Huff has five quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks in six games (95 snaps). Clemons has tallied a sack, and Curry has given the Jets some contributions against the run.
Strong LB trio holding down the second level:
C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, and Kwon Alexander have worked well together, forming a great linebacker trio for the Jets.
Mosley’s 88 tackles have him tied for the second-most in football. He has had double-digit tackle games six times. Mosley’s smarts and experience are beyond valuable. He is the leader of this successful defense. Mosley has also been great in pass coverage.
The breakout of Williams has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the 2022 Jets. He has always had the talent but just needed to minimize mistakes. He has worked to do just that and allowed his ability to take over. Williams’ game has gotten substantially better. In seven games, Williams has 48 tackles, averaging just under seven a game. He has picked up four tackles for loss as well.
Alexander was yet another strong summer signing by Douglas. He has played in all nine games and been on the field for over 50% of the defense’s snaps. Alexander is similar to Williams with his speed and physicality as a tackler. Alexander provides terrific energy. He has accumulated 42 tackles (three for loss).
Revamped secondary making extraordinary impact in no time:
The Jets invested as much as possible at the two outside cornerback positions this offseason with Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed. They could not pay off any better. The two are essentially both in the top 10 at their position right now. Gardner has two interceptions, and 13 passes defended, which is the most in football. He has broken up a pass in eight out of nine games. Reed has an interception, and seven passes defended (tied for 14th).
The elite cornerback trio of the Jets is completed by Michael Carter II in the slot. Carter has two interceptions, and five passes defended. Carter has established himself as one of the best slot cornerbacks in football this year.
Even the depth at corner is more than strong as well. Brandin Echols has recorded 32 snaps over the last five games. On the year, Echols has two pass breakups and has filled in admirably whenever he has been needed.
At safety, Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner have started every game. Whitehead has been a solid addition. His physicality is a great trait to his game. As a pass defender, Whitehead has totaled two interceptions, and six passes defended (tied for 21st). Joyner has been involved in five turnovers for this unit and also has five passes defended.
The two backups who have provided depth are Will Parks and Ashtyn Davis. Parks has essentially been utilized as a linebacker. Davis has been a core special teamer and recorded the game-winning interception in the Jets’ first win this year.
Across the board, this is a complete unit filled with elite talent, great starters, and reliable depth on all three levels. They have been shown balance in slowing both the run and pass. The rush and coverage have worked hand-in-hand. This seventh-ranked Jets defense is having one impressive year. For the Jets to keep winning and make the playoffs, they will continue to need exceptional play from this defense.