Defensive line of NY Jets is no New York Sack Exchange
Oct 2, 2015; Sunbury-on-Thames, United Kingdom; New York Jets defensive tackle Leger Douzable (78) and defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson (96) and Damon Harrison (94) at practice at the Hazelwood in advance of the NFL International Series game against the Miami Dolphins. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Looking back at a time when the NY Jets had the best defensive line in all of pro football and when comparing to this year’s version, it’s not even close in comparison.
Today I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and an ax to grind with a growing group of Jet fans. I don’t normally go on a rant, but as my long time readers will know it is not the first time I’ve felt the need to set the record straight. I’m a lifetime Jet fan, and I’ve always admired the other Jet fans, like myself’s loyalty. My best friends are group of grizzled old Jet fans, that I often refer to as “the gang.” Jet fans in my opinion are the most loyal and friendly fans in the nation.
Here’s my beef with a number of fans I’ve discussed the Jets with on social media. There is a growing set of fans that have begun to refer to our current defensive line as the “New York Sack Exchange.” I thought initially that this group of fans were young and had only heard of the famed group the Jets fielded in the early 1980’s. I could understand it if that is all it was, but in discussion with these folks, I discovered that wasn’t the case. To my amazement, this group really believes this line is the second coming of the NYSE!
I’d like to set the record straight once and for all. I apologize to the fans that remember the group that manned the line for the Jets back then, and hold them in their proper place. The Jet fan in me couldn’t let this one go, this group comes nowhere near the talent level or production that the famed group produced! Even if it did, and in my opinion there is no comparison, it would be ridiculous to use the same name to describe them. This group of fans obviously has little imagination!
Let’s set the record straight and get this over with!
Next: The defensive line of today
Oct 25, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is tackled by New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The defensive line of today
The Jets’ defensive line of today needs no introduction to the fan base. They are the strength of this football team, and as so, the most talked about group on this team. There is no denying the talent this line possesses, and with some time, they could develop into the most fearsome group Jet fans have seen in quite some time.
Damon Harrison anchors the middle of the Jets’ defensive line. The former undrafted free agent nose tackle has developed not only into a force in the middle, but into a fan favorite as well. Harrison is 26 years old and is entering his fourth season with the Jets. He stands 6’4″ and uses his 350 pounds to his advantage to clog the middle and stop the run.
The big guy, who is affectionately called “Snacks” by his fellow players and fans alike, has put up some nice stats for the Jets. Including this year, his stats look like this: 39 games played, 141 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass defenses and 13 run stuffs. Harrison has been a true find for the Jets and he should be playing at nose tackle for the foreseeable future.
Muhammad Wilkerson is undoubtedly the leader of the Jets’ defensive line. A huge talent and a fan favorite, the former first round pick of the Jets is playing in his fifth season. Wilkerson is just 26 years old and has developed into one of top defensive linemen in the league. Wilkerson stands 6’4″ tall and tips the scales at 315 pounds.
In five years with the Jets, he’s put up the following impressive stats: 68 games played, 267 tackles, 29 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 18 pass defenses and 33 run stuffs. Wilkerson is due a contract from the Jets this year and despite negotiating throughout the summer, the two sides have yet come to any sort of agreement. Talks were suspended at the beginning of the season, so we’ll all have to sit back and wait before we know Wilkerson’s status for next year.
Sheldon Richardson came tearing into the league after the Jets chose him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He played from the get go, wreaking havoc in opponents backfields along the way, his efforts gathered him fans as his rookie season continued and they ultimately gained him the honor of being selected the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Though the big defensive tackle has seen his share of off the field issues, he’s returned this year looking like the undoubted talent that he is.
Oct 18, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (91) celebrates with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) after a sack against Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Richardson is just 24 years old and if he can clean up the off the field stuff, he should be playing for the Jets for a very long time. The 6’3″/294 pound defensive tackle is playing in his third year as a pro, and has put up the following stats for the Jets: 35 games played, 153 tackles, 13 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 pass defenses and 17 run stuffs. A rising talent in the NFL, he’s due a contract at the end of 2016, and the Jets will likely do all they can to bring him back.
Finally, the Jets drafted Leonard Williams in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. Williams was touted predraft, as the most talented player in this years draft by many analysts. The Jets jumped on the chance to draft him 16th overall, and he has not disappointed anyone within the organization. Williams is a 21 year old rookie defensive end for the Jets and has been impressive in his first half of his rookie season.
Playing in just seven games, he has already posted 24 tackles, a half of a sack and 5 run stuffs. Williams has been developing nicely this year, has had an outstanding camp and continues to play well into the regular season. Given time, Williams promises to be a beast for the Jets for years to come.
This Jets’ defense is formidable without a doubt. As I said earlier, with time, they could develop into an elite NFL unit in the future. The group is young and talented by any measure, but they are far from being the next “New York Sack Exchange.” There is no way to measure the potential of this group, but in my evaluation, they will never match the productivity of the original exchange.
They may prove me wrong down the line, but I’ll never be able to refer to them as that immortal nickname. There will only be one group worthy of that name, so let’s take a look at the real deal!
Next: The New York Sack Exchange
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Sack Exchange
For my younger readers who might not date back to the early 1980’s as Jets fans, I’d like to introduce you to the greatest defensive line the Jets have ever fielded. All four were drafted in the late seventies, but this line only contained one first round pick, yet they put fear in opposing quarterbacks hearts. To say these players were proficient in bringing pressure and sacking quarterbacks, is an understatement. As you will see, these four players wreaked havoc with opposing offenses, by spending their Sunday afternoons in their backfield.
It is almost impossible to be a Jet fan and not know the name Mark Gastineau. Gastineau was chosen in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft to play defensive end for the Jets. He stood 6’5″ and weighed in at 265 pounds while becoming an immediate starter in his rookie season. The NFL didn’t make sacks an official stat until the beginning of the 1983 season, so there is no real way to fairly compare him to the young players the Jets have today.
I think it fair to say however, that none of these young men will ever reach the pinnacle Gastineau rose to. He was a sight to behold coming off the edge to sack opposing quarterbacks. He led the league for two years running in sacks (1983, 1984), a feat yet to be repeated. He developed into a five time Pro bowl player, setting an NFL record by recording four sacks in a Pro Bowl.
Gastineau played outstanding football for the Jets from 1979 until the end of the 1988 season. During those years he set several Jet records and remains the Jets all-time sack leader with 107.5 sacks to his credit. Gastineau ‘s incredible career earned him selection to the Jet Ring of honor, and rightfully so.
Marty Lyons is another household name among Jet fans, as well as fans of the NFL in general. His talents were key to the Jet teams of the the 1980’s and he was a key contributor to the “exchange.” Lyons was the only member of the famed defensive line to be taken in the first round of the 1979 NFL Draft. Taken ahead of Gastineau, Lyons played his entire 11 year career for the Jets.
The 6’5″/269 pound defensive tackle was often overshadowed by his famous teammates, but still managed to end his career standing ninth all time among Jet players to have ever sacked a quarterback, ending his career with 43 sacks to his credit. Lyons speed and strength enabled him to get into the backfield to meet opposing running backs and to devastate opposing quarterbacks. In 2013, Lyons was inducted into the Jets’ Ring of honor.
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Abdul Salaam may not be the household name that the other members of the exchange were, but he was nonetheless a vital part of the Jets’ defense during the early eighties.
Taken in the seventh round of the 1976 NFL Draft, Salaam suffered through three pathetic 3-11 seasons before being joined by the rest of the players that formed the exchange. The 6’3″/262 pound Salaam was as versatile as they come for a defensive linemen, lining up at defensive tackle, nose tackle and defensive end through his career.
Salaam lacks the accolades of some of his former teammates, but make no mistake, he was key contributor in their successes of the 1980’s. Salaam played his entire pro football career with the team that drafted him, earning the respect and admiration of his teammates and fans alike.
Joe Klecko is arguably the most famous of the players to make up the exchange. A fan favorite to this day, Klecko was chosen in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL Draft. Klecko was labeled “the working man’s player” for his blue collar background and his work in preparing for each and every game he played in as a Jet. Klecko’s work ethic and athletic ability made him a four time Pro Bowl selection and a fan favorite throughout the years.
Plagued by chronic knee problems throughout his career, Klecko played for the Jets through 12 seasons, he was eventually cut by the Jets at the end of the 1988 season and was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. Klecko retired after an illustrious career after the 1989 season due to his chronic knee problems. Klecko ranks number two all-time for the Jets in sacks with 77.5 sacks. Klecko has been talked about several times for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but has yet to be inducted. Klecko also owns his spot in the Jets’ Ring of honor.
The New York Sack Exchange caught the eye of every NFL fan around the world, when in 1981, the four combined for 66 sacks. In 1984, Gastineau stunned the NFL when he posted 22 sacks, then an unthinkable feat and an NFL record. The groups accolades kept coming and with them, the New York media raised them to celebrity status.
Klecko continues to hold the record for consecutive games with a full sack at ten, while Gastineau posted four sacks in a game three times. The four were invited to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, as their fame and celebrity spread to every corner of New York.
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The thought of referring to this current Jets’ defense to the famed group of old is laughable. The name will always be owned by Mark Gastineau, Mary Lyons, Abdul Salaam and Joe Klecko. There is no way to fairly compare the units of course, but to date this defensive line has done little to draw the comparison.
They are young and in time, if the Jets can keep them intact, they may rival the accomplishments of the exchange, but they will never earn the name. So, let’s cut off the nonsense, and stop referring to this group as the New York Sack Exchange 2.0. Use some imagination and come up with something for this foursome to be called, but please stop!
Okay folks, thanks for putting up with another one of my rants. Silliness, I know, but stuff like that just has a way of getting under my skin. I’m off my soap box. Please leave me a comment and as always, Let’s Talk Jet Football!!