The New York Jets defense exploded in Week 1 of the preseason. Will that trend continue? We break it all down here for ESNY.Overreaction is easy after one week of preseason football — for better or for worse.
- Robby Anderson is going to be the next great Jets wideout.
- Christian Hackenberg is our franchise quarterback.
- Leonard Williams will win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Actually, put that last one down under the dark horse category — you heard it here first. But in all seriousness, we told you last week that you should temper your excitement or grief one way or another, regardless of what happens over the weekend.
Why do I warn you? Because this happened to me last season, although it wasn’t the preseason, it was Week 1 of the regular season.
That’s right, in the season opener between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals, expectations were set high.
There was no Sheldon Richardson. Muhammad Wilkerson was coming off a broken leg he suffered in the season finale in Buffalo. Despite that, the Jets had one of their best showings in their history.
Eight total team sacks and a lot of players contributed: Wilkerson (1.5 sacks), Williams (2.5 sacks) and Steve McLendon (2 sacks), among others.
Before the day started, I thought that this defense had a chance to be special. Boy, was I right — but for all the wrong reasons. This defense was especially awful and got shredded on a weekly basis by opposing quarterbacks.
This game ended up being nothing more than a tease. Fast forward nearly a year and we have the same results, just four weeks earlier.
Another eight-sack performance and another cast of characters stepped up to the plate. Yet this time, eight different players registered a sack. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.
It was the epitome of a team effort. Now heading into the 2017 season, a lot of analysts are suggesting the “tank narrative.”
But perhaps the Jets can surprise everyone?
Let’s Break Down Each Layer of the Defense
Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off a down year, albeit one in which he rushed back from injury. With essentially a contract year on the line in 2017, I expect him to bounce back in a big way.
Leonard Williams has exponentially increased every stat from year-to-year. Can we assume that continues? Of course, we can. This guy is a stud who registered a sack in preseason action by ripping through a double team.
Sheldon Richardson is in a contract year and he’s not only playing for the Jets, but he’s auditioning for the other 31 teams in the league. He couldn’t have a bigger chip on his shoulder.
We’ll start off with inside linebackers. Exit stage left, David Harris. Insert Demario Davis.
Davis should bring speed back to this group. Speaking of speed, Darron Lee disappointed last season. The Jets need him to take the next step in his development. One last name to keep an eye on, Bruce Carter, is a seasoned veteran who has solid coverage abilities.
When jumping over to the outside, you see there are so many mid-round picks that are on this roster. It’s time to see what they can do. Lorenzo Mauldin needs to find the spark that he had in his rookie year. Jordan Jenkins is solidly unspectacular, but he’s consistent. Also, a new hybrid in Dylan Donahue is fresh meat entering the equation. He’s got a great motor and NFL bloodlines.
Another name to keep an eye out for is Freddie Bishop from the CFL. Everyone makes the Cameron Wake comparisons but he has to show us on the gridiron. Some depth guys who made some splashes in preseason are Josh Martin and Julian Stanford. They’re good special teamers and can possibly be role players in sub-packages.
Now here’s where the defense struggled last season. What did they do to improve? Hopefully addition by subtraction. Familiar faces like Darrelle Revis and Marcus Gilchrist, replaced by some youth and promise.
For the first time in Jets history, they selected two members of the secondary with their first two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft — so far, so good. It may be just one preseason game and training camp practices, but both Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have impressed.
At the corner spots, a couple of guys who the Jets hope can make the next leap in their development include Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts and Dexter McDougle. There’s also some veteran depth on the roster, as Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams and new signee Morris Claiborne all provide insurance.
Everyone has said that Claiborne, when healthy, is a top corner in football. It’s the classic low-risk vs. high-reward signing, which is perfect for a team like the Jets.
Overall, there’s a lot of hope and promise at each level of the defense. But there are also expectations, despite what the people say outside of the organization.
While I won’t be running to Vegas to say the Jets have the next great defense in the NFL, I won’t be running there to say they have the worst. This unit will surprise in 2017 and my prediction is they won’t be the easy piece of cake pundits say they will. It may not be the New York Sack Exchange, but they’ll get the job done in 2017.