3. Carl Lawson, DE, NY Jets
Quinnen Williams is integral to the success of the Jets' pass rush in 2022, but Carl Lawson is the key that can unlock the potential of Williams and the entire Jets' pass rush.
When the Jets signed Lawson to a massive three-year, $45 million contract last offseason, the expectation was that they had landed their best edge rusher since the days of John Abraham.
And throughout the summer, that seemed to be the case. Lawson was the unquestioned star of training camp and looked well on his way to putting together a career year in 2021. Then, disaster struck.
Lawson tore his Achilles during the Jets' joint practice with the Green Bay Packers, sending the defense into a tailspin that it never really recovered from. It was a brutal injury for a player who was arguably the most important part of that defense.
Now, Lawson is looking to return with a vengeance in 2022. The former Cincinnati Bengals standout is still making his way back from his torn Achilles, but the hope is that he could pick up where he left off last summer upon his return.
If Lawson plays the way the Jets hoped and expected him to in 2021, there's no telling what this defense is capable of. Lawson excelling would take the pressure off Quinnen Williams, the linebackers, and the entire secondary.
The defense's success hinges on Carl Lawson this season. Expectations should obviously be tempered given that Lawson is less than 12 months removed from suffering one of the most devastating injuries in the world of sports.
But if he defies the odds and shines anyway, the Jets will likely have one of the better defenses in football.