NY Jets Post-NFL Draft State of the Roster: Outside Linebackers

NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets host one of the least accomplished edge rushers groups in the NFL.

The NY Jets spent the offseason working to address some of the roster’s biggest weaknesses. However, one area that still remains very concerning is the edge rusher position.

The Jets haven’t had much success at the position for the better part of two decades and despite the obvious need, the team didn’t do much to address the spot in the offseason. The position was ignored in free agency and only addressed with a mid-round flier in the draft.

And as we’ve seen in recent years, the Jets haven’t exactly done too well at drafting mid-round edge rushers.

Nonetheless, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams managed to get the most out of the talent at his disposal last season. And despite an incredibly underwhelming group of outside linebackers, the Jets still barely finished in the bottom-10 in team sacks.

Obviously, there’s still plenty of work to be done here. But with Williams at the helm, it’s easy to see at least a couple of these players turning into viable role players in the near future.

With that, let’s take a look at the state of the Jets’ edge rushers heading into 2020.

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NY Jets projected starters

  • Jordan Jenkins
  • Tarell Basham

The Jets were able to re-sign Jordan Jenkins in the offseason to a meager one-year, $5 million after reports surfaced that the former third-round pick could be looking for upwards to $10 million per season.

Evidently, his market didn’t develop the way he had hoped and he decided to come back to the Jets to play under Gregg Williams for another year. And at the moment, he remains their only outside linebacker with any sort of consistent starting experience.

Jenkins has put up very solid production over the past two seasons amassing 15 sacks over that time. But while his sack numbers look good on paper, he remains underwhelming as a pass rusher.

Ideally, Jenkins is a fringe starter who doesn’t excel as either a pass rusher or run-stopper, but is a high-work-ethic, great locker room guy. The Jets will hope to see him become more adept in one particular area, though, if he’s going to take the next step in 2020.

Starting opposite him is currently slated to be 26-year-old Tarell Basham. Basham played all 16 games with the Jets in 2019 totaling two sacks in limited playing time. But when on the field, the former third-round pick was actually a pretty efficient pass rusher.

Basham received a very solid 73.2 grade from Pro Football Focus which ranked him as the No. 32 edge rusher in the NFL. The Jets will be looking for more of that from the journeyman in 2020.

Competing for a depth role

  • Jabari Zuniga (R)
  • Harvey Langi
  • Frankie Luvu
  • Bryce Huff (R)
  • Wyatt Ray
  • Ahmad Gooden

Out of all the players on this list, third-round pick Jabari Zuniga is the only one guaranteed a roster spot. The Jets will be hoping that Zuniga can break the trend of recent failed mid-round pass rushers that the team has tried to develop.

The Florida product ran into injury trouble while at college, but he has a solid blend of power and athleticism that could make him an important contributor in year one. And with the size to shift inside, don’t be surprised if he’s used as a down lineman from time-to-time as well.

Apart from Zuniga, the likes of Harvey Langi, Frankie Luvu, and undrafted rookie Bryce Huff will be the primary competition for the other edge rusher spot(s).

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Langi and Luvu have both spent some time with the Jets but have each seen more snaps on special teams than defense. Luvu is the better athlete but Langi remains more versatile and consistent on special teams.

The real intrigue comes with Huff who shined at Memphis as a plucky, high-motor pass-rush specialist. While not the biggest or strongest, Huff has no shortage of energy and could carve out a role as a third-down pass-rusher with the Jets.

Given that Huff was given the most guaranteed money out of all Jets undrafted free agents, one would assume that he at least earns a spot on the practice squad. But don’t be surprised to see him on the 55-man roster either.

The final duo of Wyatt Ray and Ahmad Gooden will each enter training camp as massive longshots to make the team. Both shined in the preseason last year (Ray with the Cleveland Browns and Gooden with the Denver Broncos) and will look to make a good impression on special teams to earn a roster spot.

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Ultimately, the Jets will be relying on Gregg Williams to once again get the most out of a group of young, inexperienced edge rushers in 2020. It might be the team’s weakest position group, but that doesn’t mean it will be the least productive.