New York Jets star Leonard Williams hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. So what’s missing? A running mate, says Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
(He looks around.) Where is everyone?
The Jets decided to build around him—not a bad idea considering he’s a 24-year-old budding superstar. Although, not everything is perfect in this magical fairyland story. There’s an obvious piece missing from the puzzle: sacks.
Williams, in three seasons, has racked up only 12 of them. That equates to a lackluster average of four per season. For context, 10 players had as many sacks as Williams has combined in three years as they did last season:
- Chandler Jones (17 sacks)
- Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks)
- DeMarcus Lawrence (14.5 sacks)
- Everson Griffen (13 sacks)
- Cameron Jordan (13 sacks)
- Ryan Kerrigan (13 sacks)
- Joey Bosa (12.5 sacks)
- Cameron Heyward (12 sacks)
- Ezekiel Ansah (12 sacks)
- Yannick Ngakou (12 sacks)
If Williams is truly the elite blue chip prospect everyone thinks he is, why can’t he get to the next level?
“Well, I think he needs a running mate, to be honest with you. He’s been doubled and has been the focus of attention on that defensive line. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, unless you’re like a hall of fame pass rusher at the age of 24, it’s going to be pretty tough sledding for you. The Jets have not had a consistent edge rushing presence to alleviate some of the pressure on Leonard Williams.
“The sack numbers aren’t very good. However, the guy gets to the quarterback a second late. He’s racked up more quarterback hits and sacks over the last couple years more than anyone in the league not named Aaron Donald. A lot of people don’t like to talk about that because quarterback hits aren’t necessarily a sexy stat.
“Last year, he struggled getting sacks, but he was really hurting. His wrist started bothering him during the preseason, but he never whined about it. He didn’t hit his stride until midway through last season.
“Make no mistake about it though, he’s an uber-talented player. Williams is a guy I think is ready to take that next step, provided he gets some help.”
The latest episode of the #Jets zone features @NYDNSports @nyjets Insider @MMehtaNYDN breaking down the top #JetsCamp storylines, the latest inside scoops, and some! Plus I answered your #JetsFanMail! #JetUp #nyj https://t.co/P9WRCOs3jg
— The Jets Zone (@TheJets_Zone) July 25, 2018
It’s a fair point from Manish. The last time the Jets possessed a pass rusher opponents had to fear was John Abraham. For context, 2005 was his last season with the Jets before they traded him. Folks, that was 13 seasons ago.
Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle. So, OK, Williams needs a running mate. Where is that dude going to come from?
(He minimizes the screen and opens up Google.)
N-E-W (space) Y-O-R-K (space) J-E-T-S (space) R-O-S-T-E-R (ENTER)
So it’s safe to say, the Jets have minimal options outside of Williams. On the defensive line, there are a slew of unproven commodities. At outside linebacker, there’s a bunch of mid-round picks that simply haven’t developed into anything that distantly looks like a competent edge rusher.
So it seems that Williams will have to try and discover his ceiling on his own, at least for this season. Here’s a sneak peek of what defensive studs are projected to be avialble next offseason:
- Ezekiel Ansah
- When Ansah came into the league out of BYU, he was incredibly raw. The Detroit Lions took a gamble on his potential as opposed to the collegiate production and it paid off in a major way. By the start of 2019 season, he’ll be 30.
- DeMarcus Lawrence
- Probably nothing more than a pipe dream to think the Dallas Cowboys would let Lawrence actually hit free agency at the ripe age of 26 (will be 27 by the start of 2019 season). If he does, Jets should be on him like nobody’s business, but that seems unlikely.
- Ndamukong Suh (Interior Pass Rusher)
- The Jets flirted strongly with the potential of this impact player in free agency this past offseason. But the fear of the potential irreparable damage he could do in the locker room was too much to bare. Would they try again in 2019?
- Clay Matthews
- While the locks are still golden, I’m starting to notice some silver hairs. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a silver fox, but at 33 years of age in 2019, how much more can he offer? The Jets are looking for more than just a band-aid.
- Geno Atkins (Interior Pass Rusher)
- I’ll be honest, I’m a huge Geno Atkins fan. Is it because I love the Georgia Bulldogs? Perhaps. But the Jets need a pass-rushing defensive tackle who can push the pocket and force the opposing quarterback to squirm. Atkins can do that and some.
- Carlos Dunlap
- Another Cincinnati Bengal makes this list in Carlos Dunlap. When you’re that big (6-foot-6) you can just do so many different things on defense. Dunlap is who the Jets were hoping Quinton Coples would turn out to be. In his eight years in the league, he has snagged at least four and a half sacks in every season and has even gotten as high as 13.5. Call him Captain Carlos Consistency, the green and white could use some of that desperately.
- Brandon Graham
- He was the hero in this past year’s Super Bowl. He’s a bit of a tweener, not really sure what he is supposed to be: a defensive lineman or an outside linebacker? But screw the label, because this guy is a pass rusher. Graham isn’t super young (he’ll be 31 by the start of the 2019 season), but perhaps can be a hired assassin to take out opposing quarterbacks.
- Dante Fowler Jr.
- While the perfect fit seems to be Dante Fowler Jr. He’s only 23-years-old and has a very bright future ahead of him. After being taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, he suffered a major injury that derailed his rookie season before it ever began. If I was going to put my money on anyone, it may be Fowler because of what his future has in store for him.