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This must be better

The Jets’ defense just doesn’t need to just improve from last year, but improve a lot.

“I think what gets lost in the shuffle a little bit is how bad they were defensively,” said former NFL GM Mike Lombardi on his podcast. “They were 32nd in points allowed. They were 32nd in yards allowed. They were 32nd in teams being able to run the ball into the end zone on them. They were 32nd in rushing attempts, 29th in yards allowed rushing, and passing, 30th in yards allowed passing, and they were 31st in creating turnovers, they were 27th on third down, they were 21st in the red zone. We all focus on Zach Wilson, they did nothing good defensively.”

This has to be so much better, and a big part of that is to help Wilson, and not force him to have to light up the scoreboard every week to keep up with the opposing offenses lighting up the Jets’ defense.

“If you’re having to play a shootout, that’s a lot of pressure on a quarterback, I don’t care which quarterback you are,” said Jets coach Robert Saleh.

So the Jets need to take a quantum leap on defense. The stats that Lombardi listed are obviously problematic.

And to their credit, the Jets’ personnel department rolled up their collective sleeves, and did a lot of work this off-season to improve the Jets’ defense.

Think about it for a second, they could end up starting an entirely news secondary, with corners Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, and safeties Jordan Whitehead and LaMarcus Joyner. Gardner was obviously a first-round draft pick, and the other three guys were free agent signings.

That is quite a statement right there. Four new starters in the secondary. To put this simply, they need to play tighter coverage in 2022-23. Too many easy completions last year for opposing quarterbacks.

What should also help this secondary play tighter coverage is what should be an improved pass rush.

“If you want the secondary to be better, fix the pass rush,” Saleh said.

With the addition of defensive end Jermaine Johnson and return of defensive end Carl Lawson from the injured list, that should help the Jets a great deal.

“Very smart, he’s probably the most pro ready of all the pass rushers this year in terms of having a repertoire to his game,” Saleh said about Johnson.

“Johnson is a potential double-digit sack artist who stands to earn all-star accolades early in his career,” said former NFL scout Bucky Brooks.

Man, do the Jets need Brooks’ words to become a reality.

They need a double-digit sack guy badly. People can say that sacks are overrated, and QB pressures are just as important, but forget all that – they need a double-digit sack guy. End of story.

As for Lawson returning, it remains to be seen what they are getting back, coming off a torn Achilles, a brutal injury for an edge-rusher, where exploding off the ball is such a huge part of the job.

But if he returns to his old form, and Johnson realizes his potential, combined with Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and John Franklin-Myers rushing from the inside, the Jets pass rush should be much better than last year.

They also need to get much better pass coverage from their linebackers. They need one or two of their hybrid safety/linebackers to become a force in coverage. That group includes 2021 draft picks Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasrildeen, 2022 free agent signing Marcell Harris and 2022 undrafted free agent D.Q. Thomas. Speedy journeyman Del’Shawn Phillips is also in the mix. They need a lot more interceptions and defensed passes from the linebacker position in 2022-23.

“When you dig into their numbers, they can’t get worse than they were – 32nd in almost every single category,” Lombardi said

Those numbers need to improve significantly in 2022-23 if the Jets hope to have a good season.

May 20, 2022

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeld
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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