5 most important players on defense in 2016
Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) in Game 12 of the NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
One of the major strengths of the New York Jets will be their defense. It has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL thanks to the efforts of these top performers.
The New York Jets rode the backs of their defense in 2015. They undoubtedly had a great defense, and it was in the top-five in many categories.
Related Story: Muhammad Wilkerson gets major respect
Many players made contributions to the Jets’ defense. Marcus Williams, Darrelle Revis, Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor all had multiple interceptions with Williams and Revis having six and five respectively. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was the only one with double digit sacks.
Some players are going to have to step up to make 2016 a successful campaign. Without further ado, here are the top five most important defensive players of the Jets heading into the regular season.
Next: 5. The man who is his own Island
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) talks with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) after a play in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
5. Cornerback Darrelle Revis
Normally, Revis would be higher, due to his role. With that said, the Jets are going to expect other players to step up, especially their veteran leaders.
Even though his role won’t completely change, it could be diminished a little as he gets older, because he turns 31-years-old this offseason. The younger players will have to step up as Revis will show them the ropes.
Revis seemed to slow down a step or two due to injury as the season waned, but teams challenged him all year long. He forced nine turnovers (five interceptions, four fumble recoveries) in 2015.
Ultimately, teams may not challenge Revis Island in 2016, if he shows that the injury from 2015 isn’t hampering him anymore. Revis will have an important year with the Jets as both a player and mentor to those around him.
Next: 4. Keep an eye on this cornerback
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets strong safety Marcus Williams (20) makes an interception during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
4. Cornerback Marcus Williams
Williams led the team and was fifth in the NFL in interceptions with six. He stepped up big time, and he clinched three wins with interceptions in 2015.
He’s going to have to step up even more in 2016. It’s not just about the interceptions, but taking a receiver away from the other team’s offense.
He showed us what he is capable of in 2015, and the bar should be set high for Williams in 2016. Williams may not be able to achieve the same stats, as far as interceptions are concerned, but he can take away a top receiver from the options on a given play.
The combination of Revis and Williams can be dangerous. It’s time to begin the passing of the torch.
Next: 3. The youth movement continues
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams (92) rushes the quarterback during the first half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. Defensive End Leonard Williams
Williams had a decent rookie season. His performance even garnered one vote in the defensive rookie of the year balloting.
He had three sacks. His seven stuffs were tied for 27th in the league and his 14 stuff yards were tied for 50th.
He’s going to have to take the next step in his development this season, and the surrounding cast should allow him to do so. Wilkerson will take up a lot of attention, and Darron Lee might have to garner some attention from offensive lines later on in the season.
So it might free up some sacks for Williams. If he steps up in 2016, the Jets will have a formidable defensive line.
Next: 2. Watch out for this sack master
2. Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson
Wilkerson was the best defensive lineman on the Jets in 2015 and he will definitely be so again in 2016. He had 12 of the team’s 39 sacks in 2015, and it won’t be surprising if he takes umbrage with the franchise tag in a “I’ll show you” type of season and have even more.
In addition to his sacks, he was a key contributor to the run defense. He also led the team in tackles for loss with 11.
According to Sporting Charts, he also had four stuffs. They define that as stopping the run at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Wilkerson may be in his last season with Gang Green. It would be nice for him to go out with a bang.
Next: 1. Potential Defensive Rookie of the Year
Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Darron Lee (Ohio State) after being selected by the New York Jets as the number twenty overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
1. Linebacker Darron Lee
Yes, there’s a rookie at No. 1 on this list. Normally a rookie wouldn’t be so high, but Lee will have a huge impact on the Jets in 2016.
The Jets were Wilkerson or bust last season, in terms of the sack. NFL.com had this to say about Lee:
"Quick to diagnose and flow to the ball. Has unusual ability to find the most efficient routes to the ball. Has athleticism and flexibility to contort his body and succeed through difficult tackle angles. Plays with loose hips, quick feet and desired agility of an NFL weak-side linebacker. Former high school quarterback with the change of direction and speed to be a rangy playmaker. Comfortable in space and excels there. Has plus man cover talent. Willing to stand in and take on blockers with a leveraged strike if his gap is being threatened. Capable gap blitzer with ability to get skinny through the holes."
As mentioned earlier, last season the team as a whole had 39 sacks, which ranked 12th in the NFL. Lee’s presence will be important in aiding that.
must read: 5 most important players on offense in 2016
In a 3-4 base defense, the rush linebacker is a key player. Lee’s presence will take some of the defensive attention away from guys like Williams, Richardson and possibly Wilkerson on occasion. His quickness and rush abilities will eventually require a double-team. This will lead to a big impact for him and making his case to be a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.