The New York Jets‘ linebacker group was riddled with injuries last season. Newly acquired C.J. Mosley suffered a groin injury in Week 1 that kept him out much of the season. Avery Williamson missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in the preseason. Those two injuries, while not decimating the entire group, had a huge impact on the group and defense as a whole.
What a healthy C.J. Mosley can do
People may have forgotten, but when Mosley was in the game Week 1 against Buffalo last season, he was playing great football. He had 6 total tackles, 2 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a pick-six. He accumulated those numbers while playing only 70% of the defensive snaps. When he went out, the feel of the defense drastically changed, at least to a certain viewer.
Even if Mosley isn’t at the exact level of production he was at with Baltimore a few seasons ago, he can still be dominant, as shown in the game mentioned above. While with the Ravens, he was selected to four Pro Bowls in five seasons. Across those five seasons, he amassed 579 total tackles, 9 interceptions and 8.5 sacks. Those are great numbers for most players and positions, including linebacker.
A healthy C.J. Mosley can easily get 100 tackles, a few interceptions and sacks, plus other impact plays the stats may not show. Aside from the stats, Mosley adds an established Pro Bowl centerpiece to Gregg Williams’ defense.
What a healthy Avery Williamson can do
After spending the first four years of his career in Tennessee, Williamson’s first season as a Jet in 2018 was the best of his career. He had a career-high in tackles with 120 and also had a career-high in passes defended with 6. He also was a major anchor in the middle of the defense.
Williamson is somewhat of an underrated player in conversations about top linebackers. Of course, he has not been to a Pro Bowl so that argues against him, but he is a strong number two alongside Mosley, to say the least. He is a good tackler with great sideline-to-sideline movement and ability.
If words aren’t enough, the stats should do the trick. On the flip side of the 120 tackles, he had just 5 missed tackles. That means he made the tackle 96% of the time. If you compare that to the great season that Bobby Wagner had for the Seahawks last season, the numbers are similar. Wagner, who is widely considered the best linebacker in football, had 159 tackles and 10 missed tackles. That means he made the tackles 94% of the time, slightly lower than Williamson.
While Avery Williamson may not be a star linebacker, he is a good player who can help make a duo with C.J. Mosley one of the best in the league.
With Mosley and Williamson holding down middle linebacker most of the time, outside linebacker will mostly be held down by one player: Jordan Jenkins. As of right now, Jenkins seems to be the only lock for the 53-man roster at this position.
Jenkins has played all four years of his career with the Jets. However, he has never started all 16 games in a season. He started 13 games last season and had just 32 total tackles, the lowest of his career. However, he improved greatly in other areas. He had 13 quarterback hits and career-highs in both sacks and tackles-for-loss, with 8 and 9 respectively. So, while he doesn’t rack up a large number of tackles, he gets a lot of action behind the line of scrimmage.
While Mosley and Williamson try to shut down the middle of the field, Jordan Jenkins can provide a nice amount of pressure behind the line.
With Jenkins missing some time last season with a calf injury, Mosley missing time with a groin injury and Williamson tearing his ACL, the group was never at full strength. If they can all stay healthy, the linebacker group can be among the best in the league.
With a couple of sure tacklers and some decent pass rush, the rest of the defense could be under less pressure. With a relatively unproven cornerback group and uneasiness at safety with Jamal Adams at the moment, linebacker can be the one group that holds down everyone else on defense for the New York Jets.