NY Jets general manager Joe Douglas clearly had a vision in mind for the defense entering this past free agency period — pressure from the defensive line.
Douglas added an elite defensive end in Carl Lawson, a star defensive tackle in Sheldon Rankins, and a deceptively productive depth rusher in Vinny Curry, as well as recent signing Ronald Blair.
Of course, with Robert Saleh as the new head coach, it’s fair to assume that these signings were coming from him — Saleh led a magnificent defense in 2019 in San Francisco, headlined by an imposing pass rush.
The question is, will the Jets be able to replicate that 2019 49ers defensive line in production?
To answer that, let’s examine each player and their role in that dangerous 49ers pass rush from two seasons ago.
Can the NY Jets fill the Arik Armstead role?
First and foremost on that San Francisco front-four was defensive end Arik Armstead. The former Oregon Duck put up 10 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 18 QB hits in the 2019 regular season, plus an additional two sacks in the postseason.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Armstead an incredible 89.8 grade for 2019, effectively calling him one of the best defensive linemen in football.
Armstead rushed from the inside and the edge that season, which allowed him to thrive as offensive lines were kept guessing.
The Jets don’t currently have a player who plays like nor is even built like Armstead, who stands at 6-foot-7 and 292 pounds. However, at the most basic level, perhaps Sheldon Rankins could provide similar productivity.
Rankins, a 6-foot-2, 305-pounder who rushes purely from the interior, greatly differs from Armstead in both build and style.
Rankins did, however, record eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 15 QB hits back in 2018, his last healthy season. Those stats closely resemble those of Armstead’s 2019 season.
Rankins had to battle injuries these past two seasons, hindering his production and lowering his market price, which is the likely reason Douglas signed him.
Still, when healthy, Rankins has been a handful for the interior of offensive lines, much like Armstead back in 2019.
Perhaps the Jets won’t be filling the exact role that Armstead had in 2019 with the 49ers, but hopefully Rankins can replicate his productivity — the only important aspect ultimately.