The role of Jets defensive line in 2017
By Michael Pallas
For the New York Jets this season, it’s not about individual stats to judge performance, but rather, team numbers.
Going into 2017, everyone at the top of the New York Jets organization said the season wasn’t going to be judged solely on wins and losses, but on whether or not the team looked like it was improving. It’s impossible to say Week 3 wasn’t an improvement over the first two weeks. It was the first time all three phases of the team had a good game.
So far the Jets have five sacks as a team, and none have come from their top two defensive linemen, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. Some will look at that as a bad thing, and that a guy like Wilkerson isn’t earning his money. However, it may be something different.
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When you look at the all-time sacks leaders list, it does have a lot of defensive linemen. However, 20 percent of the top-20 predominantly played linebacker, with some playing with their hand on the ground at times.
Kevin Greene (3rd all-time), DeMarcus Ware (8th all-time), and the late Derrick Thomas (16th all-time) all played linebacker. However, the man who’s tied for 13th all-time, and who some consider the best defensive player ever, Lawrence Taylor, also was a linebacker.
When it comes to the Jets only, linebackers and defensive backs have recorded sacks. That may be a sign of team defense working at its finest. The defensive line is tying up offensive linemen to allow their teammates to get to the quarterback.
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Fans and the media will look at the 2013 and 2015 seasons and say that’s where they expect Wilkerson to be, and Williams went from three to seven sacks in his first two years. Wilkerson and Williams will have their share of sacks by the end of the season. It just might be of the double-digit variety. At season’s end, let’s look at the team numbers and performance and not just individuals because football is the ultimate team game in sports.