Jets Early Roster Preview: Defensive Line
By James Cunningham
The Jets made the defensive line a priority in the offseason, and now the unit looks to improve off of the 2018 season.
The Jets’ defensive line has had its ups and downs over the years. In 2015, they were one of the most dominant forces in the league. Since, their production hasn’t been the same, but they’ve still been satisfactory more often than not.
Leonard Williams has been a little underwhelming since making the Pro Bowl in 2016. He did improve from the 2017 season last year, posting 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Overall, it’s fair to say he’s been disappointing for the past few seasons.
If he’s ever going to break out into a premier threat, it will be this season. Williams’ contract is up after this year, and if he wants to be payed like a top tier defensive lineman, he has to play like one. Gregg Williams will also be beneficial to Big Cat. He’s entering the prime of his career, and he has every reason to make 2019 his best season yet.
Henry Anderson was an acquisition made by the Jets via trade during the 2018 draft, and he paid off big time. After being dealt for just a seventh round pick, Anderson turned into the Jets’ most productive players on defense.
Anderson posted 7 sacks, 16 QB hits, and 7 tackles for loss in his first season with the Jets. Despite being the Jets’ best pass rusher, many thought the Jets would let him walk in free agency when Gregg Williams arrived. The Jets thought otherwise.
Anderson got a nice paycheck this offseason, signing a 3 year, $27 million deal with the Jets. He earned his money through his play, and got paid respectively. He’s still a very young player, and with an improved surrounding cast, he may be in for a great season in 2019.
The Jets made a big move on day one of the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with the third pick. Williams was regarded by many as the best player in the draft. He fell to three primarily due to the Cardinals and 49ers having bigger needs, but make no mistake: he’s an animal.
In his sole starting season at Alabama, Williams posted 8 sacks, 71 tackles, and 19.5 tackles for loss. To put up those numbers as a defensive tackle is ridiculous. His insane rate of production at the defensive tackle position has earned him comparisons to back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year winner Aaron Donald.
Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson should strongly benefit from the presence of Quinnen Williams. With a dominant force in the middle of the line, Big Cat and Anderson should have more opportunities to get to the quarterback. Steve McClendon will likely serve as the second defensive tackle for the Jets, whose proven to be one of the more underrated run stuffers in the league.
The Jets’ defensive line has been stuck in mediocrity for the past couple of years. There has always been some prodcution, but never enough to call them an elite group. With Leonard Williams and Anderson entering their prime seasons and the addition of Quinnen Williams, the Jets defensive line has the ability to get over the hump and become a dominant force again.