Can NY Jets replicate the 2019 49ers defensive line?
Much of the 49ers' defensive success in that 2019 season was thanks to their stout defensive front, headlined by DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, and Nick Bosa. Can the Jets have any players of their caliber next season?
First up, Armstead. Before his 10-sack, 89.8 PFF-grade campaign in 2019, Armstead was a relatively unimpressive player. He had just 9.0 sacks and 13 TFLs in the previous 48 games.
His previous high Pro Football Focus grade was 74.2 in 2018. John Franklin-Myers, who like Armstead, plays both 4-3 DE and DT, has actually seen more success than Armstead did pre-2019.
In just the past 29 games, he has the same number of sacks and just two fewer tackles for loss than Armstead did in that 48-game stretch. Franklin-Myers can easily fit the Armstead role next season.
Next, Buckner. Buckner was a good player from the start of his career, albeit not as dominant as he’s been the past three years. In 2018, he was a Pro Bowler with 12.0 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, and a 79.3 PFF grade.
No Jet has played quite to that level, but Quinnen Williams has not been that far off. Last year, Williams played at a 9.0-sack and 12-TFL pace, and he received an 81.4 grade from PFF. Not quite as productive as Buckner’s Pro Bowl 2018 campaign but still reasonably close.
Perhaps with Carl Lawson drawing more attention from offensive lines, Williams can have a Buckner-like statline next season.
After Buckner comes Ford. Ford was a new acquisition for the Niners in 2019. He came from Kansas City fresh off a 13.0-sack, seven-forced fumbles, 29-QB hits season in 2018. He received a sky-high 88.5 PFF grade that year and was a huge acquisition for San Francisco.
While the sacks haven’t been there, I do think Carl Lawson could fill this role as a premium edge rusher. Last year in Cincinnati, Lawson was fourth in the NFL in pressures, a stat arguably just as important as sacks.
Still, the sacks, fumbles, and PFF grade are not even close to those of Ford (Lawson did have more QB hits for what it’s worth). It is important to note, however, that despite that 49ers’ defensive dominance, 2019 Ford was also not even close to as productive as 2018 Ford.
He played at just a 9.5 sack and nine QB hit pace for the 49ers in 2019. Lawson could very easily hit those numbers for the Jets next season.
Last and perhaps most, Bosa, who logged an elite 86.7 PFF grade in 2019. The Jets don’t have a Nick Bosa on their roster.
There is, however, a great player in the draft who could be the next Bosa: Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson dominated NCAA offensive linemen this season, culminating in a destructive performance against Ohio State’s Day 2 offensive tackle prospects.
This season, Hutchinson logged a whopping 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 14 games. As a reference, Bosa’s best full season saw 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 14 games at Ohio State (he also logged 4.0 sacks and six tackles for loss in three games as a junior before an ACL tear).
If the Jets could land Hutchinson, he could unlock the rest of the defensive line and be the final piece to this defensive line puzzle.
Fellow edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is almost a lock to go top-3 in April, making him out of reach for Gang Green, but Hutchinson could perhaps slip to the Jets after a disappointing showing against Georgia in the College Football Playoff semi-final.