Gregg Williams, Jamal Adams, Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The recent Avery Williamson and Brandon Copeland news favor a broken a New York Jets defense. Be careful in that assumption.

Robby Sabo

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—“Another one bites the dust.” Classic lyrics aside, the all-time tune is ringing frighteningly true in Florham Park as of late.

First, Leonard Williams missed a little bit of time. Then, Trumaine Johnson popped a hammy in practice while picking off Sam Darnold. This past weekend is when the crushing blow arrived in the form of an Avery Williamson ACL. Now, edge rusher Brandon Copeland has been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Just when Gregg Williams thinks he’s in the clear, Freddie Mercury’s familiar voice provides a harsh football reality that’s oftentimes forgotten during the summer months.

No man is safe. Consequently, the New York Jets defense feels bent and completely broken.


Be careful. It’s entirely too early to make such bold (and silly) proclamations.

Current Depth Chart / Packages

Base 4-3

If you’re a Jets fan familiar with ESNY, you’re already aware the 3-4 is dead in the water. You already read it from this very platform in the spring. Adam Gase announcing that his defensive coordinator would stick with the 3-4 was simply a headline mover. Announce the current personnel grouping on paper and move on. That’s all it was.

Gregg Williams is a 4-3 man. His three decades in the NFL showcased a tried and tested reliance on the four-man front. Why would he suddenly change now?

Aside from a 3-4 base look early in training camp, the 4-3 has taken shape, especially last week in Atlanta when the Jets took on the Falcons.

The interesting thing about this 4-3 is that it’s featuring an edge rusher on the second level, along with C.J. Mosley and the other backer (whomever it may be).

The man who had the lead in this spot was Copeland. Now, it’s Frankie Luvu.

  • 1-TECH: Quinnen Williams / Steve McLendon / Foley Fatukasi
  • 3-TECH: Leonard Williams / Henry Anderson / Nathan Shepherd / Bronson Kaufusi
  • EDGE: Henry Anderson / Brandon Copeland / Bronson Kaufusi / Frankie Luvu
  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins / Brandon Copeland / Tarell Basham / Frankie Luvu / Jachai Polite
  • MIKE: C.J. Mosley / James Burgess
  • SAM: Avery Williamson / Neville Hewitt / Anthony Wint
  • WILL: Frankie Luvu / Blake Cashman
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson / Brian Poole / Tevaughn Campbell / Kyron Brown / Parry Nickerson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts / Arthur Maulet / Mark Myers / Derrick Kindred
  • SS: Jamal Adams / Rontez Miles / Brandon Bryant
  • FS: Marcus Maye / Rontez Miles / Doug Middleton

Of course, in today’s league, the base really isn’t the “base” anymore. It’s critical to dive deep into the subpackages.

4-2-5 Nickel

  • 1-TECH: Quinnen Williams / Steve McLendon / Foley Fatukasi
  • 3-TECH: Leonard Williams / Henry Anderson / Nathan Shepherd / Bronson Kaufusi
  • EDGE: Henry Anderson / Brandon Copeland / Bronson Kaufusi / Frankie Luvu
  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins / Brandon Copeland / Tarell Basham / Frankie Luvu / Jachai Polite
  • LB: C.J. Mosley / James Burgess
  • LB: Avery Williamson / Neville Hewitt / Blake Cashman / Anthony Wint
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson / Tevaughn Campbell / Kyron Brown
  • CB: Darryl Roberts / Arthur Maulet / Mark Myers / Derrick Kindred
  • NB: Brian Poole / Parry Nickerson
  • SS: Jamal Adams / Rontez Miles / Brandon Bryant
  • FS: Marcus Maye / Rontez Miles / Doug Middleton

3-3-5 Nickel

  • 1-TECH: Quinnen Williams / Steve McLendon / Foley Fatukasi
  • 3-TECH: Leonard Williams / Henry Anderson / Nathan Shepherd
  • 3-TECH: Henry Anderson / Bronson Kaufusi
  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins / Brandon Copeland / Tarell Basham / Jachai Polite
  • EDGE/LB: Avery Williamson / Frankie Luvu / Brandon Copeland / Blake Cashman
  • MIKE: C.J. Mosley / Neville Hewitt / Blake Cashman / James Burgess / Anthony Wint
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson / Tevaughn Campbell / Kyron Brown
  • CB: Darryl Roberts / Arthur Maulet / Mark Myers / Derrick Kindred
  • NB: Brian Poole / Parry Nickerson
  • SS: Jamal Adams / Rontez Miles / Brandon Bryant
  • FS: Marcus Maye / Rontez Miles / Doug Middleton

3-2-6 Big Dime

  • 1-TECH: Quinnen Williams / Steve McLendon / Foley Fatukasi
  • 3-TECH: Leonard Williams / Henry Anderson / Nathan Shepherd / Bronson Kaufusi
  • 3-TECH: Henry Anderson / Bronson Kaufusi
  • EDGE/LB: Avery Williamson / Frankie Luvu / Brandon Copeland / Blake Cashman
  • MIKE: C.J. Mosley / Neville Hewitt / Blake Cashman / Anthony Wint / James Burgess
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson / Tevaughn Campbell / Kyron Brown
  • CB: Darryl Roberts / Arthur Maulet / Mark Myers / Derrick Kindred
  • NB: Brian Poole / Parry Nickerson
  • S: Rontez Miles / Doug Middleton
  • SS: Jamal Adams / Rontez Miles / Brandon Bryant
  • FS: Marcus Maye / Rontez Miles / Doug Middleton

Strengths / Weaknesses

Just take a gander at the middle of the defense; it’s literally as good as it gets in the NFL.

Quinnen Williams, Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson (when he’s playing inside), C.J. Mosley, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye (when healthy) is as stout a middle-defense as can possibly be. To pile on to the embarrassment of riches, Brian Poole is one of the sneakier slot corners in the league. His smarts and physicality add a lot to the defense.

Of course, for a unit to fetch success, it first must be complete.

This is the issue of the Mike Maccagnan era; he never solved the edge woes, and due to that horrifying fact, the interior rushers have an impossible time of it and the defensive backs play with a built-in handicap.

New York Jets

Furthermore, an Anderson-Jenkins combo at the edge is a tough pill to swallow. Anderson belongs inside, and Jenkins, while excellent against the run, isn’t a terrifying edge rusher. When the bookends are both power/bull rushers, the offense enjoys an advantage. A Polite, Luvu or anybody else presence is needed to offer up a finesse-style that can help contrast with the beasts inside.

And yes, the cornerback situation is woeful at the moment. Remember, though; this is the NFL. This is football and a four-man rush can negate any back-end issues.

Final Thoughts

The hard-salary cap ensures that talent is strikingly similar across 32 franchises. It’s coaching and schematics that usually win the day. If you’d like to argue such a statement, explain the New England Patriots to the world. Explain a Matt Cassell 10-5 record during the 2008 campaign.

Gregg Williams continues the extraordinary shuffle at practice and in exhibition games. His base 4-3 features Luvu as the WILL backer, a usual edge rusher. (It also mixes in Copeland at the spot as well.) His cornerback situation continues to shuffle. From Kyron Brown to Tevaughn Campbell, a starter opposite Darryl Roberts is required.

It’s this constant shuffle that tells the story that Williams is constantly in search of the missing ingredient: speed/finesse on the outside (edge and corner). But to count them out this early in the season is a foolhardy move. What wins on defense in today’s NFL is a conventional four-man pass rush and a strong safety who negates matchups (those tricky running back and tight end issues that often arise).

While, of course, you can’t count them out just yet, a few things do need to happen:

  1. Quinnen Williams needs to step into his big-boy shoes.
  2. At least one finesse edge presence needs to step up (Luvu or Polite).
  3. Marcus Maye needs to stay healthy.
  4. One corner needs to become a reliable starter.

With Jamal Adams serving as the best safety in the league, employing intense potential up the middle and Gregg Williams’s scheme ripe to shock the league for the first few weeks (at least), the New York Jets defense may be bent and broken (for now), but it’s not shot.

There’s plenty of talent and knowledge to overcome a few missing bodies.



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