Author: DAVID WYATT-HUPTON
When Robert Saleh took to the podium following the Jets 13-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers he said there was “a lot of good tape that we can look at”. When he flips on the tape for the defence, he won’t have to wait too long.
On the very first defensive play of the game, a Jets defensive lineman shot the gap as a 3-tech penetrating into the backfield, using Tampa tight end Cade Otton as a battering ram to tackle his own running back for a 5-yard loss.
That in short, is what Quinton Jefferson brings to this football team.
Jefferson has only appeared in 21 snaps over two games so far this preseason, but he’s left his mark. His tackle for a loss against Tampa Bay was a fitting follow-up to his sack of Bryce Young last week against Carolina.
Not content to have a litany of defensive ends rotating on the outside, the Jets moved to improve their interior as well. Not only did they sign Jefferson who was coming off a career year in Seattle, but they also signed Al Woods as that dominating run-stuffer.
Jefferson not only racked up 5.5 sacks last year, but according to PFF, he generated 43 pressures. Two of those sacks last year came against the Jets, which clearly left a lasting impression on Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas.
Being able to penetrate the gaps ensures that there are no easy yards, it closes running lanes quickly, moves the QB off his placement and disrupts his reads. If the Jets can force the running backs to move horizontally it will open up opportunities for linebackers C.J Mosley, Quincy Williams and Jamien Sherwood to funnel to the football. It’ll also open opportunities for safeties Tony Adams and Jordan Whitehead to come downhill with authority and make statement plays.
Jefferson has been doing this for a long time. Having been a 5th round-pick out of Maryland back in 2016, he’s spent much of his career on the west coast with Seattle, with quick pit stops in Buffalo (2020) and Las Vegas (2021). Over seven years, he’s carefully honed his craft with the last two years being the most productive of his career.
In 34 games over that time period, Jefferson has 93 pressures, 10 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, 76 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass defences. He’s also been completely healthy, and you know what they say about the best ability being availability.
He now gets to play next to one of the premier defensive tackles in football, Quinnen Williams, who, fresh off his contract renewal, will be looking to build on his dominating performance last season.
When you generate 12 sacks, 52 pressures and 12 tackles for a loss in 16 games, you’re going to draw attention. Quinnen draws double and triple teams by defensive coordinators trying to nullify his threat, which opens up opportunities for everyone else.
The Jets defensive system is based on a simple but important philosophy: generate pressure without blitzing. If you can consistently generate pressure without blitzing you win the numbers game.
If a QB is under duress consistently, what do teams do? They leave extra blockers in to negate the rush. If teams do that, then you outnumber them in coverage. Complementary defence is how you win in the NFL and nobody did that better than the Jets last year.
The Jets had the lowest blitz rate at 14.9% last year but generated the third-most pressure in the league at 25.4%.
When you consider the coverage capabilities on the back-end of the Jets’ defence it’s easy to see how the complementary nature works. On some snaps, the defensive line gets home so quickly it eases the burden on the secondary to maintain their coverage. On other snaps, the coverage is so good, it gives the defensive line time to get home.
The addition of Quinton Jefferson and his ability to penetrate the gaps will only strengthen what was already a dominant unit. With the pass-rush capability of this defensive line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jefferson surpass his career highs for both pressures and sacks. If the preseason is anything to go by, watching the Jets defensive line is going to be fun.