The Jets must move forward after starting defensive end Carl Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles tear Thursday.
Carl Lawson will not be partaking in the 2021 regular season.
It’s a massive blow to the organization. Lawson was undergoing a tremendous training camp and was to be a clearcut starter on the defensive line and a good fit in Robert Saleh‘s 4-3 scheme.
The Jets must move forward though and set their sights on his replacement.
It won’t be a simple task, but there are indeed options.
Free agent market
If the Jets are going to bring someone in, they cannot just locate a serviceable (and somewhat inexpensive) edge rusher. The organization must acquire one who could additionally take on the role of a defensive end in this type of scheme.
Olivier Vernon is someone who comes to mind and isn’t entirely up there in age (he’ll be 31 years old in October). He could still be capable of producing on the pass-rushing front — Vernon recorded 9.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hits for Cleveland last year (either mark was second on the team behind fellow defensive end Myles Garrett).
Vernon has played the defensive end role for much of his career, really only playing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 when the Giants hired James Bettcher to be their defensive coordinator in 2018.
The issue, however, is that Vernon is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in January. Nonetheless, the injury could assist in the Jets possibly swinging a cheap deal if they were to consider signing him.
Another individual who could be a beneficial fit is 29-year-old Vic Beasley.
He’s still on the right side of 30 and just racked up eight sacks for the Falcons in 2019, a mark that led the team.
It’s also interesting to point out Beasley possesses great familiarity with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. Throughout Beasley’s entire five-year tenure with Atlanta (2015-19), Ulbrich served as the Falcons linebackers coach.
It’s now clear John Franklin-Myers could most definitely start on this defensive line.
He was competing for the defensive end role opposite Lawson, so expect him to potentially earn a starting role amid Carl’s absence.
The next-best options might be veteran free-agent pickup Vinny Curry and third-year player Kyle Phillips. The former, however, is on the Non-Football Injury list and hasn’t practiced while the latter is on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Thus, their eventual statuses are unclear.
The Jets did receive great production on the pass-rushing front from Bryce Huff and undrafted rookie Hamilcar Rashed Jr against the Giants last Saturday. Rashed recorded 1.5 sacks while Huff racked up a pair in that category.
Maybe either could find legitimate playing time if a final roster spot is achieved?
I could see guys like Ronald Blair and Jabari Zuniga making the team (especially given the former’s past experience with Saleh in San Francisco). However, the talent may not be present enough for either to assume a noteworthy starting role in this defensive system.
All in all, if a free-agent move for a starter isn’t made, it’s nice to know the Jets still employ replacement options. A defensive end duo including Franklin-Myers and a healthy Phillips could reside in Florham Park, but don’t expect them to be the only ones in the mix for starting jobs.
The next few weeks should reveal a lot in regard to this significant task of replacing Carl Lawson.