Jermaine Johnson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Douglas has always loved his pass rushers. And while he addressed the secondary and receiving core early Thursday night, the Jets general manager pulled a fast one with a trade-up and subsequent selection of Jermaine Johnson.

After giving the Titans the Nos. 35 (second round), 69 (third), and 163 (fifth) picks to move back into the first, the Jets drafted the Florida State defensive end at No. 26. New York also received the No. 101 selection (third).

First take: The Jets defense finished last in both total yards allowed and points allowed last year. Not a great development when you employ a defensive-minded head coach in Robert Saleh. With the NFL having become a passing league, rushing the quarterback is crucial and Johnson should help the Jets improve in that area. Johnson’s expected contributions along with those of Sauce Gardner (who the team drafted at No. 4) should shape the type of defense Saleh fantasizes about. There was also thought to the Jets potentially drafting Johnson in the top 10 and they reportedly had their eyes on him, so the fact they were able to land him at No. 26 is surprising.

Second guesses: There’s a chance the Jets could’ve kept those picks and still landed a pass rusher in the second round. After all, they did have picks Nos. 35 (third overall in the second round) and 38 (sixth overall) prior to the trade. Maybe Houston’s Logan Hall would’ve slipped to that portion of the event? Maybe Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie would’ve done the same? This defensive end class is deep so you could argue the trade-up by Douglas was unnecessary.

How does Johnson fit into the 2022 plans? The Jets already have two starting-caliber defensive ends in Carl Lawson (who’s returning from injury) and John Franklin-Myers. You can never field too many pass rushers though — a rotation of the three could work wonders for this defense. There’s also the chance the Jets move Franklin-Myers inside with Quinnen Williams and have Lawson and Johnson work on the exterior.


Final thoughts: Between his immense talent, great measurables, pure athleticism, and the team’s need for pass rushers, Johnson is an awesome pickup for the Jets. But this is a “playoff or bust” type of season for the Jets. If Johnson (and Gardner) can’t elevate a defense that was the league’s worst a year ago, Thursday night’s moves will go to waste.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.