NY Jets: Folorunso Fatukasi is the NFL’s No. 1 run defender

NY Jets (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

NY Jets’ defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi has been an elite run defender.

The NY Jets haven’t had much to remain encouraged about in this despairing drag of a season, but the play of nose tackle Folorunso Fatukasi is one positive development of the campaign.

A sixth-round pick of the Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft, Fatukasi was almost exclusively a healthy inactive in his rookie season suiting up for just one game. However, he made his presence felt when given the opportunity the following year.

Fatukasi played in 14 games last season and established himself as a key cog in the defensive line rotation. Rather quickly, the former UConn star went from late-round afterthought to an integral part of the Jets’ defense.

Fatukasi finished his first full season in the defensive line rotation with an outstanding 81.6 Pro Football Focus grade which ranked him as the No. 10 interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

He still wasn’t a starter, but a lot of that had to do with the play of his teammate, Steve McLendon, who actually ranked slightly higher than Fatukasi as the No. 9 defensive lineman in the league.

Both players were dominant in 2019, and Jets fans expected more of the same in 2020.

With the season all but lost, the Jets shipped the veteran McLendon to Tampa Bay allowing Fatukasi to emerge as the full-time starting nose tackle. Now instead of playing 30-40 percent of defensive snaps, he’s playing well over 50.

And given his play this season, it’s easy to see why the Jets were so willing to move on from McLendon.

Folorunso Fatukasi has been dominant for the NY Jets this year

Fatukasi has proven that he’s no one-year wonder as the 25-year-old is currently ranked as PFF’s No. 9 overall interior defensive lineman with a stellar 85.6 grade.

He was already having an incredible season going into Week 9, but his performance in the team’s 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots was his best of the season.

Fatukasi finished with seven tackles including a monster 4th-down stuff where he forced a fumble as well. The result was an incredible 91.2 PFF grade which ranked third among all defensive players in Week 9.

And that performance was enough to catapult his PFF run-defense grade to 90.1 which now ranks as the best in the NFL, not only at his position, but among all players.

That’s right, according to PFF, Fatukasi is the NFL’s best run-defender at any position, tied with All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. That’s some high praise for a player who’s finally beginning to receive the recognition he deserves.

Fatukasi has 16 total tackles in the three games since McLendon was traded. He’s averaging over five tackles per game — many of which are coming at or behind the line of scrimmage. Those just aren’t normal numbers for a nose tackle.

In just the New England game alone, six of Fatukasi’s seven tackles came short of the first-down marker where he held the ball-carrier to two yards or fewer. That’s an absolutely dominant performance against the run.

Fatukasi has quickly developed into one of the best pure run defenders in the NFL. And based on his play this season, you could easily make the argument that he is the best.

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