Despite what many fans believe, the New York Jets pass rush is not bad. In fact, it’s well above average with Leonard and Quinnen Williams involved.
New York Jets fans have given the team hell for not addressing the pass-rushing issue this season. Most of them think that the team is doomed to fail to create pressure yet again, which will doom a poor secondary.
That’s simply not the case.
In fact, the Jets got to the quarterback quite a bit last year. The Jets were second in pressures, third in QB hits and 15th in sacks last year. For those who don’t know, sacks are very far from the best stat to judge a team’s pass rush ability.
Take Aaron Donald for example. Last year, he racked up 20.5 sacks. That’s phenomenal; it’s one of the best years in NFL history. Those sacks only accounted for 3% of the plays Donald was on the field. That’s how little sacks happen on the field. A player’s pass rush ability is so much more than just their ability to get sacks.
The Jets are an example of why that’s true. They got to the QB constantly last year without getting sacks. That’s usually due to bad luck, but that’s not the case for the Jets. Too often, the QB was able to escape the pocket and make something out of nothing when pressured by the Jets.
One reason for that is that too often only one person was beating their man. More often than not, that man was Leonard Williams.
Leonard Williams has drawn the ire of fans after his performance last year. Many believe him to be bad due to his lack of traditional box score stats, such as sacks. What they fail to realize is that sacks while valuable are not the end all be all of the pass-rushing productivity.
For example, let’s compare Leonard Williams to the star of Jets fans eyes of the moment, Jadeveon Clowney. Last year, Clowney snagged nine sacks compared to Leo’s five. By traditional methods, that would make Clowney the better pass rusher. However, that’s not the case. According to a PFF study, a sack is worth roughly four and a half times as much as a pressure.
To put this into value let’s say that Clowney nine sacks are worth 40.5 pass rush efficiency and Leo’s sacks are worth 22.5. That would mean for Leo to be worth more as a pass rusher he would need to have at least 19 pressures more than Clowney did last year. Leo had 51 non-sack pressures last year while Clowney had 36. That means that Leo got to the QB 15 more time than Clowney bringing their total PRE to 76.5 for Clowney and 73.5 for Leo Williams.
No, Leonard Williams is not as good a pass rusher as one of the top 10 edge-rushers in football, but it’s close enough that people need to realize that Leo is not a black hole in the pass rush department. Had he turned just one of his pressures into a sack he would have been a more valuable pass rusher than Clowney.
So next time you think about shipping off Leo for an edge rusher, remember that even as he is now he is an above-average pass rusher. That should only get better this year with the addition of Quinnen Williams to the offensive line.
The Jets won’t employ a traditional pass rush this season. Most teams expect pressure to come off the edges from their edge rushers. The Jets are following the Los Angeles Rams model of pass rush though. They want to bring pressure from up the middle with their DT, NT, ILB and safeties. That’s how Gregg Williams, who was a part of the Rams team that drafted Aaron Donald, wants to run this defense.
He’s relying heavily on Leonard Williams continuing to be the pass rusher that he is, as well as rookie first-round pick Quinnen Williams to be the player he was at Alabama. Quinnen will primarily play NT (1-technique) this year with Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson playing DT (3-technique). Quinnen thrived in that role at Alabama making a mockery of center-after-center, including most of the ones drafted this year, such as second-round picks Elgton Jenkins and Erik McCoy.
Quinnen has the talent to be an elite pass rusher in this league. For example, Quinnen ran a 4.83 forty-yard dash. Only three other players over 300 pounds that were also top 10 picks ran a forty-yard dash under 4.85, Kevin Williams, Trent Williams, and Lane Johnson.
The player most comparable to Quinnen is Kevin Williams, and he was a six-time pro bowl and five-time first-team all-pro DT who spent his career with the Vikings. He’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s the comparison for Quinnen. Kevin Williams only had two years in his career with double-digit sacks, his rookie year and his second year. Only four years in his thirteen-year career did he top five sacks.
So, why would that be a comp that shows how good Quinnen Williams could be as a pass rusher? It’s because in his career, Kevin Williams continually caused havoc in the backfield. He was a monster at creating pressure on the QB. That’s something that Quinnen Williams will hopefully be able to do as well.
With both Quinnen and Leonard Williams, the Jets should be creating consistent pressure on almost every pass play. With two players creating pressure consistently that should fuel more sacks from both players. That, in turn, should help the Jets turn their pressures into sacks, something they failed to do last year. Just doing that should help the Jets turn into a top-10 pass rush in the NFL this year.