New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Defensive line

The arrival of Robert Saleh should help stabilize a New York Jets defensive line packed with young potential.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Our next portion turns to the front seven, starting with the defensive line…

Oct 18, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (95) reaches for Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin (37) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

If you, the reader, often skipped these sections of the offseason recaps, this writer could hardly blame you. After all, reading them from a Jets fan’s perspective may be the Gang Green equivalent of watching Avengers: Infinity War and skipping to Thanos’ snap. 

But the Jets’ defensive line was a rare bright spot in 2020, featuring several breakouts from young pieces. By far the most impressive was that of Quinnen Williams, who immediately reclaimed the narrative on his NFL career after a sputtering rookie season. Williams’ greatest leaps came in the pass rush, more. than doubling his pressures (14 QB hits) and sack totals (7 after 2.5 in 2019). The third overall pick of the 2019 draft credited his resurgence to an adjusted workout and diet routine in a report from team correspondent Olivia Landis. He believes last season the precursor to something bigger.

“I didn’t want to be the player that I was my first year. I hit that goal and I wanted to say that I was on the right track for my career,” Williams said. “I feel like this is the stepping stone for me to get better and better every year.”

Williams wasn’t the only one whose introduction to the mainstream NFL conversation was washed out by the antics of the Jets’ 2020 season. Foley Fatukasi followed through on the promise shown at the end of the 2019 season while previous Super Bowl participant John Franklin-Myers had a career-best year in the interior. Together with Williams, both Fatukasi and Franklin-Myers were among Pro Football Focus’ top 35 best-graded interior defenders.

Admittedly, not everything was a breeze for the Jets’ front group. Kyle Phillips missed a majority of his sophomore season after impressing as an undrafted rookie, while the team bid farewell to veteran leader Steve McLendon through a de facto fire sale in October. McLendon was dealt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he eventually earned a Lombardi Trophy hoist in February. The Jets are also set back to bring back Ontario-based Nathan Shepherd. Chosen in 2018’s third round out of Fort Hays State, Shepherd has yet to live up to his day two billing but reportedly “turned heads” at minicamp last month.

Oct 6, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) celebrates after a sack of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (not pictured) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

The arrival of new head coach Robert Saleh has many projecting that the Jets will switch to a 4-3 setup, which will rely on a strong, rotating edge rush. Their defensive line additions saw them address that area, home to a long-gestating renovation project that hasn’t seen a consistently disruptive backfield invader since John Abraham’s departure.

When Saleh called tackle Sheldon Rankins about joining the cause, the former New Orleans Saint was all in.

“When he called me and expressed his interest and how much he really wanted me to be a part of this and the vision he had for me and Quinnen inside and Carl (Lawson) out on the edge, it got me fired up,” Rankins said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It made me want to be a part of something special.”

One of the first moves the Jets made this offseason, from a roster perspective, was releasing DE Henry Anderson, who had failed to live up to the hype of a $25 million contract. Afforded an additional $8 million through Anderson’s release, the Jets surrounded their young core with veterans that should only up their pressure.

Casual observers dismissed the addition of defensive end Carl Lawson ($45 million over three years after four seasons in Cincinnati) by complaining about his pedestrian sack numbers (11.5 in the last three years after eight in his debut campaign). But Lawson has been one of the league’s most prevalent pressure artists in recent memory, his dominance on display through advanced stats. Even if Lawson wasn’t the one taking the quarterback down, played a major role in the thrower’s eventual demise. Lawson was one of only 11 defenders who reached double figures in ESPN’s “sacks created” category and, in a more conventional area, ranked sixth in QB pressures.

In addition to Rankins, the Jets also welcomed Saleh’s former San Francisco disciple Ronald Blair into the fold before using their final draft pick on DT Jonathan Marshall from Arkansas. Vinny Curry, who previously appeared on Philadelphia’s championship squad, can provide depth and veteran leadership.

carl lawson, new york jets
carl lawson, new york jets

Are They Better Off?

The Jets need to plan for a future where they’re almost guaranteed to face Josh Allen (and possibly Tua Tagovailoa) twice a year until further notice. A strong pass rush is going to be vital if they want to pull themselves out of the playoff drought mire.

General manager Joe Douglas deserves some props for his activities on the defensive front this offseason. Few could’ve blamed the Jets for becoming complacent after the breakouts of Williams, Fatukasi, and Franklin-Myers. Instead, they upped the pressure by surrounding a defensive coach with elite defensive talents that will help foster in this latest…and most hopeful…chapter of the Jets perpetual rebuild. Lawson’s contract, for example, may be steep from a financial sense, as he’s the Jets’ biggest 2021 cap hit at over $14 million. But if he follows the promises of pressure on display over the last few seasons with the Bengals, the three-year deal could wind being one of the most consequential moves in Douglas’ tenure in both a short and long-term lens.

The green glory days have been characterized by strong defensive efforts. With the frontline additions, the Jets have set themselves up handsomely for what’s sure to be a dangerous, yet ambitious, road ahead.

Final Offseason Grade: B+

Are you more confident in the Jets’ defensive line with Robert Saleh in tow? Continue the conversation Twitter @GeoffJMags

Henry Anderson released; What it means for the New York Jets

With the veteran Anderson out and over $8 million of cap space in, ESM ponders what’s next for the New York Jets.

The New York Jets bid Henry Anderson farewell on Tuesday night, releasing the three-year veteran. With the release, the Jets now save about $8 million in cap space, bring an already robust number to just under $76 million to spend this offseason…the second-best purse in the NFL, behind only Jacksonville.

How does this change the Jets moving forward? ESM investigates…

This becomes a bigger year for Kyle Phillips

Phillips was turning into something that worked for the Jets over the past two seasons…so, of course, football misfortune befell him. This diamond in the rough emerged as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2019, and he went on to make the most of the time afforded to him. Playing 50 percent of defensive snaps, Phillips became a menacing prescience in opposing backfield, earning 39 tackles (7 for a loss, including 1.5 sacks, led the team) over 15 games (4 starts). The Jets’ defensive staff had high hopes for him entering the 2020 season.

Being an undrafted free agent, he’s just a guy who’s so mature for his age. He’s one of those players you hope can play 10 years,” then-defensive line coach Andre Carter, now holding the same position at LSU, said of Phillips to team reporter Jack Bell. “He just works hard. He’s old school. He can play in various packages. He’s smart. He’s the least of my worries. He’s one of those players you enjoy having in the room because he asks intelligent questions.”

Alas for Phillips, he was never able to make an impact in 2020 due to lineup shuffling and an ankle injury that prematurely ended his season. But as the immediate name behind Anderson on the depth chart, this season takes on greater importance, as the transaction shows the Jets have extended a new brand of trust unto him. His development under Robert Saleh and his 4-3 tendencies will certainly be something to keep an eye on once the team reconvenes.

Nov 22, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) celebrates after a fumble recovery against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There are more funds to work with

The Jets’ cap situation has been discussed and sung about ad nauseam in the metropolitan postings, but the question becomes how they can wisely spend and distribute that money. New York is far removed from the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl…heck, they might be several moves away from merely sniffing a wild card spot at this point. But the release of Anderson will allow them to address perhaps some under-the-radar needs they would be unable to obtain without the $8.2 million afforded to them through this transaction.

For example, the Jets could be well settled in their tight end spot, hoping that Chris Herndon has regained his rookie year form. This extra cap room, though, could perhaps give them the means to seek out some veteran help. Same with the running back spot, where they have plans for La’Michael Perine but are stretched thin with Le’Veon Bell gone and both Ty Johnson and Josh Adams up to hit the market. Now armed with nearly $75 million in cap space, they might also be able to afford multiple marquee free agents.

With the potential to add more weapons, it is in fact possible that the possibility of Sam Darnold staying has been raised ever so slightly.

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (82) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The purge has begun

Obviously, there are exceptions, but the purge of almost anything relating to the Adam Gase era is officially underway with the release of Anderson. It informally began with the in-season release/trades of Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson, but now a new cutdown to add even further to the salary cap surplus.

While Anderson’s time in New York was probably up…he earned only a single sack after the career-best 7.5 in 2018…the Jets might be tempted to dismiss some rare, reliable silver linings in an attempt to fatten their wallet even further. The team has a major decision to make on Jamison Crowder, who has been by far their most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons. But with a $10 million addition to their cap space picture due upon his release, he could be the next to go (though they could gain back the same amount in a trade). Others potentially on their way out include blockers George Fant ($7.8 million) and Alex Lewis ($5 million). The Jets’ cap picture is very healthy, but when one is cursed with as many issues as they are, every little bit helps. The mandated departure of Anderson is just the beginning.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UPDATE: New York Jets cut DL Henry Anderson

The New York Jets have released defensive lineman Henry Anderson. Anderson was brought over in a deal with the Indianapolis Colts just 3 years ago. The deal was for a 7th round pick, and it ultimately lead to success in his first season with the Jets. Anderson put up 7.0 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and 35 overall tackles. This prompted the former front office to offer him a three-year, $25.2 million dollar extension. The deal has been an utter failure.

Anderson’s Struggles

in the past two seasons, Anderson has combined to put up a measly 1.5 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and only 77 tackles. Anderson has consistently underperformed, and for the money he was worth, he failed to live up to expectations as a whole, only starting 22 of 32 of games since resigning.

The guaranteed money blocked the Jets from cutting him last offseason and allocating resources elsewhere, now with the availability to free much more cap, the team has released him, freeing up $8.2 million.

The Jets have a plethora of young and talented defensive linemen behind him with Quinnen Williams, John Franklin Myers, Foley Fatukasi, and Nathan Shepherd, who will all see increased playing time now. Anderson is older and less likely to fit the Saleh/Ulbrich defense, making him an easy cap casualty. The move also pushes the Jets closer to the Jaguars for the most cap space in the league as they look to reconstruct the roster this offseason. As for Anderson, he hits the open market, and for a team that still sees potential in the veteran, he could be a tempting depth option. 

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Defensive line

The rise of Quinnen Williams and some diamonds in the rough has made the defensive line a rare secure spot on the New York Jets’ roster.

The Position: Defensive Line
On the Roster: Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Kyle Phillips Bryce Huff, Nathan Shepherd, Jabari Zuniga, Tanzel Smart
Free Agents: Trevon Coley
Reserve/Future: N/A

As if the New York Jets didn’t have enough problems on their homefront, the 2020 season served as a not-so-friendly reminder that they’re going to have to deal with Josh Allen for a long, long time. Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa didn’t live up to the hype in their AFC East debuts, but if Deshaun Watson’s not coming to the Jets, he might well take his talents to South Beach (if his Houston employers can be convinced to bargain, that is). New England struggled with Newton but they enjoyed a rushing breakout with Damien Harris and will welcome back a healthy Sony Michel come next season.

Simply put, the Jets need to make sure their first line of defense is fortified moving forward. Despite their endless struggles in 2020, the unit became one of the Jets’ most reliable areas.

Quinnen Williams, for example, was one of the most pleasant surprises in football, recovering from a tough rookie year to become one of the league’s most dominant interior linemen (55 tackles, 14 knockdowns, 10 TFL, 7 sacks). Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi and Henry Anderson each became veteran breakouts, while John Franklin-Myers became a reliable depth option. While each dealt with injuries, the Jets have high hopes for youngsters Kyle Phillips and Jabari Zuniga. In an uncannily welcome situation, the unit has only one potential departure through free agency (Trevon Coley), though that doesn’t account for potential cap departures like Anderson ($8 million).

Adding to the defensive line’s importance is new head coach Robert Saleh’s dedication to the 4-3 defense. The Jets haven’t run such a formation on a consistent basis since Bill Parcells and Herm Edwards helped ring in the new millennium.

Saleh expects Williams to be the headliner of his unit moving forward. During Saleh’s time in the Bay Area, the 49ers extensively scouted Williams when they picked right before the Jets in the 2019 draft. San Francisco eventually took Nick Bosa but Williams left an impression on his new coach.

“With regards to (Williams) his mindset, his athleticism, his power, his love for football, I’m really, really excited to see him in our system, especially up front with the way we design with that attack style,” Saleh said, per team report Jack Bell. “He’s a game-wrecker. He’s somebody you have to game plan against to keep him at bay, and, obviously, it gives the other 10 guys an opportunity to excel just because of the focus that he’s going to garner.”

Free-Agents-to-be

DT Trevon Coley

Coley was scooped off Arizona’s waiver wire in December and didn’t appear in a game in a Jets uniform. He tallied 14 tackles and a sack over six games with the Cardinals this season. The Jets were his seventh team since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of FAU in 2016.

Will They Draft?

Adding help to the defensive line is low on the Jets’ priority list for the time being, though the possibility could be raised if they move Anderson through a release or trade. If they had their usual output of picks, they’d probably focus beyond the front four, but they could potentially explore a mid-tier option like Janarius Robinson from Florida State or the versatile Malcolm Koonce from Buffalo. If they want to replenish the interior, they could look at Williams’ Tuscaloosa successor Christian Barmore, though he would likely require a pick over the first two days. 

Veteran Possibilities 

DE Kerry Hyder, San Francisco

Hyder is one of many San Francisco free agents that should expect a call from the Jets. He originally joined the Jets as an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech in 2014 before latching on with Detroit and Dallas prior to his San Francisco stint. After Solomon Thomas was lost for the year, Hyder put up a career-best 8.5 sacks, leading the team. He may not be a household name, but he would provide an instant boost to the Jets’ edge efforts.

DE Bruce Irvin, Seattle

The Jets’ defensive line has potential, they just need some guidance, a push in the right direction. Irvin was set to somewhat fulfill that role by returning to the Seahawks, where he worked with Saleh during his first two NFL seasons as a 2012 first-round choice. A torn ACL limited him to only two games, but, at the right price, he can be a veteran mentor that happens to know what it’s like to work in a Saleh system.

DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Atlanta 

Having previously worked with Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets’ new defensive coordinator who held the same title in Atlanta, the undrafted sophomore from UCLA enjoyed a breakout season of sorts. He partook in all 16 games and picked up 31 tackles while also recovering three fumbles. If the Jets are looking for an interior depth option that knows what to expect from Ulbrich’s schemes, Tuioti-Mariner would be the way to go.

Outlook

In the grand scheme of things, the front four is one of the rare areas where the Jets don’t have to make too many adjustments. Yet, when you win two games in an NFL season, help from the outside would be welcome up and down the roster. If the Jets opt to let veterans like Anderson and Fatukasi go to earn additional cap space, only then would they perhaps become truly active. Still, with a new regime, namely Saleh and Ulbrich, coming in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add a familiar face or two to potentially create a smoother transition.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Three stars from the New York Jets’ Sunday loss at Los Angeles

Far removed from the playoff picture, the New York Jets engaged the Chargers in a strong duel despite another defeat.

Justin Herbert threw for 366 yards, with 145 of those tallies and 16 receptions going to Keenan Allen, and the Los Angeles Chargers doomed the New York Jets to yet another defeat, topping Gang Green by a 34-28 final in the latter’s first visit to SoFi Stadium. Joe Flacco had 205 yards and two scores for the Jets (0-10), who managed to earn three sacks on the rookie Herbert. If anything, Jets fans certainly see Sunday as a win if only because they hold their ground in the battle for the top overall pick in 2021. In contrast, Los Angeles (3-7) now sits in sixth after their victory.

ESM looks back on three stars for the Jets in their latest, entertaining defeat…

3rd Star: WR Denzel Mims

3 receptions, 71 yards

It took a while to truly get things rolling, but the Jets did enjoy some production from their healthy top receiver trio. Jamison Crowder was mostly held in check, but Breshad Perriman hauled in 54 yards on a pair of receptions, one of which was a 49-yard grab that started the Jets’ second half surge. Mims had his moments to shine in the second half, earning a trio of receptions in dramatic fashion, as his highlight reel grabs are perhaps the Jets’ strongest beacons of hope going forward. One could argue that Mims probably could’ve had the game-tying score, but no penalty was called despite contact from Tevaughn Campbell.

Once Mims learns how to play a full game, he’ll truly be dangerous. Perhaps the return of Sam Darnold could help unlock the final stages of his rookie development in the coming weeks, consisting of games that become far more watchable with Mims in tow.

2nd Star: TE Chris Herndon

2 reception, 32 yards, 1 TD

Sunday began to offer some hope for the career of Herndon for perhaps the first time since his promising rookie season. Last year was a wash due to a suspension and injuries, while this ongoing campaign has been defined by some tough drops in less-than-ideal situations. But while the stats were pedestrian to the naked eye, the visit to the west coast could serve as a good chance for Herndon to mentally prepare himself for a big final stretch, especially with his rookie camp roommate Sam Darnold possibly set to return in the near future.

Herndon had two receptions, but both came in major opportunities. A diving grab in the second half netted 26 yards and he later scored the Jets’ final touchdown of the late afternoon, trimming the Los Angeles lead to one possession in the fourth quarter. Herndon is one of the few Jets with his 2021 status more or less secure. If he can build some momentum that he can take into next season with him, this woebegone campaign can still produce a win.

1st Star: DE Henry Anderson

5 tackles, 1 blocked punt, 0.5 sacks

Early in the game, it was hard to tell if either Anderson or Herbert was going to spend more time in the Los Angeles backfield. Anderson’s antics allowed the Jets to keep pace with the Chargers in the early going, ending the first Los Angeles possession with a blocked punt that set up La’Mical Perine’s early score. Toward the end of the first half, Anderson came up big again with a crucial, nine-yard sack of Herbert that limited the Chargers to a far less costly field goal on the final play.

Anderson is perhaps one of the biggest cases the Jets have against tanking. With his 2021 release bringing the Jets over $8 million in cap savings, he has to do every possible to prove himself essential to the Jets in these final hours. Even if the Jets do opt to cut ties, if only for financial reasons, Anderson would be wise to treat the last seven weeks as a potential audition for 31 other employers.

The Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets Position Group Grades: Defensive Line

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each New York Jets position group within the organization and grade each group. Today’s group is one that is full of talent from top to bottom. From vets to high potential young pieces, this group is not about the individuals but rather the collective unit itself. Gregg Williams is a mastermind in defensive line rotations, and that showed last season. With one of the top rushing defenses in all of football, this group will be graded as a unit rather than as individual pieces. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the defensive line.

The Starters: Steve McLendon (NT), Henry Anderson & Quinnen Williams

The New York Jets have one key leader up front. Steve McLendon has been a consistent captain and leader in the Jets locker room. His presence is felt on the field as a run stuffer and a consistent force up the middle. He’s one of the most consistent nose tackles in the league, and I expect that to continue this season. Henry Anderson had a breakout season after being acquired from the Colts two years ago. Now, this could very well be his last season donning the green and white. Last season was a quiet year for Anderson, and if he can’t establish more of a presence, he will have a lessened role quickly. Quinnen Williams is the key x-factor of this front seven as a whole. Williams is no longer the baby he was in his first year. Williams looks more athletic and sounds more confident. He had a great camp, and I’m expecting a breakout year from the former 3rd overall selection.

Backups: John Franklin-Myers, Folorunso Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd, Kyle Phillips, and Jordan Willis.

This group is one that is crucial to the defensive line’s success as a whole. All five guys are expected to play a role in the rotation immediately. Myers had an impressive camp and earned a roster spot, so it’ll be intriguing to see what kind of role he has early. Fatukasi and Phillips are two starting-caliber linemen who had phenomenal years last year. Both men established themselves as two of the most talented young pieces on the defense. Fatukasi is the likely successor to McLendon and Phillips to Anderson. Both guys will look to continue their success in 2020. Shepherd was a highly touted selection from Canada during the former regime’s run. Todd Bowles could never really find a role with him, but the same can’t be said about Williams. Shepherd has role fairly quickly as a rotational end, and I expect him to continue to grow in that spot in 2020. Willis is in a similar spot to Phillips last year, where he will need a strong season to earn a spot in the rotation, but that’s entirely plausible.

Grade: A

As I’ve said, individually, I’m not going to rave about any one piece of the puzzle. When put together, though, with the magic of Williams, this unit is incredibly talented. I fully expect them to take a step forward this year with growth from Quinnen, Fatukasi, and Phillips. I ultimately believe those three will be the key pieces of this line for the next few years. I’m excited for this group, and I’m glad that this is the one group I’ll probably give an A to of all the groups in New York.

New York Jets: Jachai Polite Can Be The Steal Of The Draft

The New York Jets drafted Jachai Polite in the third-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

New York Jets rookie defensive end Jachai Polite was regarded early on in the NFL draft process as one of the top edge rushing prospects. However, after the NFL combine and interview process character questions and athleticism questions arose.

This ultimately caused Polite’s stock to drop. Earlier on it seemed as though he would be an early day two or a late day one pick but instead, he found himself falling into the laps of the old Jets front office regime. 

Jachai always had the potential to be an amazing addition to whatever team he joined. He began his career at Florida with 11 tackles, 2.0 sacks and 3.5 TFLs. He only played 9 games and showed potential for greater results. Then in 2017, Jachai started off strong but ended up suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He finished the season with 22 tackles,  5.5 TFLs and 2.0 sacks.

Last season, he showed the world what he could do. Jachai finished with 45 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, 11.0 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. That’s an impressive stat line that doesn’t even fully speak to what he did on the field. Jachai consistently made life hell for the opposition. 

Now, Jachai joins the Jets looking to prove he was the steal of last year‘s draft. The Jets have lacked a genuine edge-rushing attack for what feels like forever.

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How is the New York Jets defensive line looking?

Now with Henry Anderson, Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams providing a dangerous interior rushing attack, it’s time for someone to step up off the edge. Who else but the guy who was overlooked and underestimated throughout his college career and NFL draft process to step up and become the edge rusher the Jets have lacked for so long.

Jachai is out to not only prove his doubters wrong but to show the world he can be a dominant edge rusher in this league. Expect some success from him early but in the future, this man will be a monster. So, maybe not this season but in the long haul, why can’t Jachai Polite be the answer to the Jets edge-rushing woes?

New York Jets: This Season Is A Fork In The Road For Leonard Williams Career

Leronard Williams, New York Jets

New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams aka “Big Cat” has been a fan favorite and a reliable player since being drafted in 2015. He was regarded as the best player in the class before the draft. The expectations for the DE were high right off the bat.

Williams delivered with a pro bowl appearance in his first season. He finished with 3.0 sacks, 63 tackles, 7 TFLs, and 20 QB Hits. Williams was disruptive and immediately made an impact. He continued that in his sophomore campaign with 7.0 sacks, 68 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 19 QB Hits (Pro Football Reference).

Then in 2018, his production dipped with 47 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 TFLs, and 25 QB Hits. It became apparent that the double teams were hurting him and he needed back up. The Jets brought in Henry Anderson who had a phenomenal year but didn’t really help Williams much.

Leonard put up good pressure numbers but continued to lack his dominant presence shown earlier on when he had back up. This was evidenced in his 5.0 sacks, 42 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 20 QB hits. This seemed to be Williams ceiling with the Jets if backup never showed up.

Then the Jets took the monster from Alabama, Quinnen Williams. Just like that, the Jets formed a Williams 2x duo that will wreak havoc and kept Henry Anderson along as well.

It has become evident Anderson and Quinnen Williams will be big pieces on the defensive line for the future. Leonard Williams is in jeopardy, however. The Jets aren’t going to bring him back if he disappoints this upcoming season.

This is a contract year and without a doubt the biggest year of Williams’ career. A fork in the road one might call it. Two directions, two results, and one season to prove his worth once and for all.

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Will he step up and show what he can do and earn himself an extension or will he disappoint and end up in a situation with his future up in the air? There is no doubt in my mind the disruptive pass rusher can be a productive player in this league, but his dominance has faded as double teams became more prominent.

Hopefully, adding a quality player like Quinnen will allow him to return to his former self.