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Jets Training Camp Position Battle: Defensive Line

New York Jets Leonard Williams (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
New York Jets Leonard Williams (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
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As training camp draws near, here’s our complete breakdown of the position battles facing the New York Jets defensive line heading into the 2019 season.

The 2019 Jets team is lining up to be one of the best in years, and if they are to reach the lofty expectations fans have placed on them, the D needs to step up all year long. With the addition of C.J Mosely and the leadership of Jamal Adams at the back, there is reason to be confident, but if the Defensive Line can get it going, the 2019 Jets D could be one of the best in the entire league.

While so many guys along the line are unproven, that gives the Jets a chip on their shoulder, and with more talent than they’ve had for years to attack the QB, the AFC East needs to be on lookout for the Jets. So with just days to go until the Jets officially open 2019 Training Camp, let’s take a look at the Defensive Line, and which guys will be going after Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and every other QB in 2019 for Gang Green.

Starters: Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson & Quinnen Williams

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 25: Quinnen Williams of Alabama poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 25: Quinnen Williams of Alabama poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In years past, the Jets D-Line was one of its biggest strengths, but it hasn’t been that way for quite some time, and the 2019 team can certainly change that. Leonard Williams has great potential, but he’s been constantly double teamed for the past few years, and now that Henry Anderson is improving and Quinnen Williams can be a game changer up front, the Line looks promising.

There’s still plenty to be improved upon, as all 3 men are unproven in the NFL, but given the combination and potential of all 3 men, they’ll have people like Tom Brady on the ground all year long. There are plenty of keys to success in 2019 for the Jets, but if the D-Line can be as good as we can expect, the two other layers on D can be confident, and it will help the offense, so these 3 are just as important as any of the other 50 Jets on the roster come Opening Week.

Contributors: Nathan Shepherd, Steve McClendon

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

As much as any positional group in the NFL, the Defensive Line relies heavily on depth, and if the Jets can successfully rotate the young Shepherd and veteran McLendon, it will relieve some pressure on the starters.

Shepherd was one of the most promising late round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, and with limited playing time last season, he didn’t get to shine, but with a year’s experience under his belt, he’s ready to break out. Like Quinnen Williams, Nathan is capable of playing several different positions along the line, and with all the talent this D possesses, he could play a big role going forward.

McClendon on the other hand is at the other end of his career, but with Super Bowl winning experience, Steve brings a different skillset to this Jets D-Line. The former Steeler brings a veteran presence to the team, and with so many young guys on the line, he will instill the work ethic in them, and if this team is successful in 2019, McClendon will be a big reason for it.

Fighting for a spot: Justin Alexandre, Fred Jones, Bronson Kaufusi, MyQuon Stout, Trevon Sanders, Kyle Phillips, Folorunso Fatukasi

Unfortunately for the Jets, one big problem for the D-Line in 2019 is lack of depth, because when you get past the top 5 in this group, the team has no proven commodity to step up and make the role their own. This isn’t a problem if everyone can stay healthy, but the NFL is a very physical league, and if anyone gets hurt throughout the year, the team will struggle to keep constant pressure on opposing QB’s.

Throughout this group, there is some potential, but this group has combined for a total of 0 sacks in the NFL, so while this will be a tough battle, there isn’t too much promise the further you look down the Jets DL depth. Every year there are surprises in the NFL, and while we can’t expect too much from this group, someone may emerge as a contributor to this team, but right now, the Training Camp battle for time with this group will be intriguing to watch.

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