The New York Jets defense, with Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley flying around, employ the talent; but are they sound on the infrastructure front?
It’s a stretch on 1st-and-10. The offense opts to athletically get the back out on the edge while the offensive linemen follow a tried and tested zone-scheme.
In opposition, defensive athletes are required.
C.J. Mosley remains inside-out, following the flow of the play to the strong side. Eventually, he fills the C-gap at the exact moment the back cuts.
Immediately, the back catches a glimpse of Mosley, plants with his left foot and looks to bounce it. That’s trouble; that’s incredible trouble when facing the New York Jets.
Run-support extraordinaire Jamal Adams is there, playing the blocker with his inside shoulder while looking to funnel the play back to the inside where all the bodies are.
After a little dancing, Jamal sheds his blocker and C.J. is on the final moments of his prowl. Both players converge on the hopeless ballcarrier and stuff it for a two-yard loss. The two defensive leaders spring up in ecstatic fashion knowing second down will be that much tougher.
The Jets defense is loud, proud and extremely aggressive. With the headset in Mosley’s helmet, Adams running the secondary and Gregg Williams orchestrating the entire show, New York’s 2019 version deploys the talent and leadership required for dominance.
“We talk our noise, I know that’s one thing,” Adams said, via Ethan Greenberg of the Jets official website. “We fly around the ball. I know that we’re going to compete every down, every play and that’s what it’s about.”
The team’s new defensive quarterback already understands the ultra-competitive vibe at Florham Park, NJ.
“He’s very competitive and very vocal,” Mosley said. “I’m not going to take anything away from anybody that’s been here or the type of style they lead with because I’m more of a lead by example guy. So anytime he wants to talk or anybody wants to talk, I’m all for it. If I think I need to say something or give a little pep talk, then I’ll just say it. As long as we all are communicating with each other, the top dogs are on the same page, then we’re all good.”
But just when the feelgood emotions are flowing, frustration strikes.
After a 2nd-down incompletion, it’s 3rd-and-12. Williams draws up a double-A-gap show that produced a Cover 1 Robber. One second, two seconds, three seconds, four seconds … five seconds …
Quinnen Williams and Leonard Williams are battling both guards, the center and the running back. They can’t break through, and neither can Jordan Jenkins nor young Jachai Polite on the edge. After brilliant initial coverage, the quarterback eventually finds his top target on a broken play for the first down.
The leadership and talent (especially up the middle) is present, but is the infrastructure ready for prime time?
The four-man conventional pass rush remains the most critical aspect of the NFL defense, and, for years, the Jets have suffered greatly in this regard.
Up-the-middle pressure is a symbol of strength. The top three sack leaders from a season ago—Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Chris Jones—are all cut from the interior cloth. Besides, the Jets fan becomes ultra giddy when thinking about Tom Brady‘s annoyance with inside pressure.
There’s just one nagging issue as that novel idea translates to Williams Brothers’ dominance: the top sack leaders all enjoy an edge presence.
Donald’s surrounding talent is greater than nearly every D-lineman in the game. J.J. Watt leans on Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus creating headaches on the outside. Jones wouldn’t have worked without Dee Ford and Justin Houston.
The trio of Big Cat, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson faced similar infrastructure issues. Three big men with no answers outside equal an incorrectly constructed machine.
Defensive infrastructure, similar to the offensive line on the other side of the ball, equates to possessing a competent four-man conventional pass rush, balanced across the board. That’s the million-dollar question for this Jets defense (for over a decade running): can an edge presence be drummed up?
A well-oiled football unit only works when each responsibility is achieved, yet each responsibility is not equal in value. While comparing specific positions to one another, such as cornerbacks and edge rushers, is tough, there’s no question that certain functions are more valuable than others.
The four-man pass rush trumps every function defensively. What a pass rush can do for coverage isn’t similar the other way around. It’s just too difficult to cover forever. But a pass rush that hits home lifts the production of every player behind it.
We witnessed Rex Ryan’s mad-scientist ways. Over the first quarter of his debut season, forget about it; offenses didn’t know what hit them. His aggressive nature and exotic blitzes shocked the senses.
Unfortunately and predictably, it wore out. Sending six and seven rushers in an increasingly three-step world turned dangerous very quickly. Rather than relying on hitting home, Darrelle Revis became the focal point of the defensive gameplan.
Today, the Jets are still dealing with the same infrastructure issue. Without a legitimate edge rusher in the house, talent and leadership aren’t allowed to flourish at max potential.
If Polite can shock the football world, well, then … it’s time for every NFL offense to run and hide. Imagine Jamal Adams with a legit pass rush in front of him. “Scary” isn’t the word. The notion is downright frightening.
Until then, the same, tired question is the greatest topic in New York Jets land: Is this the season the four-man pass rush turns legit?
Talent? Check. Leadership? Check. Infrastructure (by way of a four-man conventional pass rush)? To be determined.