The New York Jets hired Jeff Ulbrich to be their defensive coordinator in 2021 when Robert Saleh came in. The two had previously worked together with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. They share similar defensive philosophies having both worked under Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn. Going into his second year with the Jets, Ulbrich needs to help work with Saleh and get the Jets’ defense drastically improved.
Brief review of 2021:
To start the 2021 season, Ulbrich had the Jets’ defense put a couple of quality performances together. However, there came a stretch in the mid-point of the year when the defense became completely vulnerable. Starting in Week 7 at New England, the team gave up 54 points. That led to a stretch of 30 or more points allowed in the following three games. Then, in December, the defense had a three-game stretch of 30 or more points given up.
It is worth noting that Ulbrich was down some significant personnel in Carl Lawson and Marcus Maye. Nonetheless, both the pass rush and run defense had major problems consistently. By the season’s end, the defense ranked 32nd in football in terms of yards allowed per game. The situation around Ulbrich was tough, and the final results of his first year indicated just that.
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Ulbrich is a defensive-minded football coach with past success, most notably with the Atlanta Falcons. Most of his tenure there was as a linebackers coach. While there, he helped develop young linebackers Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and Foyesade Oluokun. Toward the end of his run with the Falcons, Ulbrich assumed assistant head coach and defensive coordinator responsibilities as well. He spent a good amount of time with the Falcons, six years in a row there before coming to the Jets. Ulbrich was a part of a Super Bowl team there in 2016.
Ulbrich also offers 10 years of playing experience in the NFL as a linebacker. Along with the talented Falcons linebackers, the former linebacker himself has coached some great ones at the position throughout his career. He was with the Seahawks during K.J. Wright’s rookie year. At UCLA, he coached Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, Jayon Brown, and Kenny Young.
As mentioned in the introduction, he has been around talented defensive coaches in Saleh, Pete Carroll, and Dan Quinn. All of whom run similar schemes that have thrived tremendously.
For a coordinator, Ulbrich is still relatively young as well, at 45 years old.
Together, Ulbrich and Saleh need to find a way to get this defense into the top 20. As the coordinator, Ulbrich has much-improved talent to work with this year. Ideally, he can take the lessons learned from last year’s struggles and be much better leading his unit in 2022.
With his linebacker background, the development of young players Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood, and Hamsah Nasirildeen will be worth watching. The Jets linebacker group is a big question at the moment.
Ultimately, an improved run defense will be the start to progress for Ulbrich in leading the Jets’ defense. The unit now has much better pass rushers that they need to give opportunities to. Hopefully, by the end of 2022, Ulbrich can show his talent as a defensive coach.
Final preview thoughts:
Ulbrich now has a year of experience in his role. Also, he has significantly better players to vastly improve his unit. As discussed, getting his unit from 32nd to the top 20 would be an excellent step that indicates growth. Having the defense consistently prepared, knowing their alignment, assignment, and the overall game plan each week will be a simple key to success. Ulbrich should have a good second year in 2022 with clear improvement leading the Jets’ defense.