Part seven in a series analyzing the New York Jets.
If you wanted to pick one area the Jets did not do enough to address this offseason, edge-rusher is it.
It has been a weakness on this team for 15 years now and every year you expect the Jets to solve this problem, but it remains unsolved. This year, general manager Joe Douglas faced a roster with so many holes in it that he had to leave some unplugged, and edge-rusher falls into that category.
The big move was re-signing Jordan Jenkins, who led the team with eight sacks last season. It looked like Jenkins might be moving on early in free agency as he was unhappy with the Jets’ offer. But Jenkins’ market did not develop like he had hoped and he ended up taking a one-year, $3.75 million deal from the Jets. It is a bargain deal for the team. While Jenkins is not Lawrence Taylor, he’s no slouch, either. Jenkins has proven to be solid at setting the edge and he had 15 sacks over the past two seasons.
When you get past Jenkins, there are a lot of questions. The Jets drafted Jabari Zuniga in the third round out of Florida. He had just three sacks for the Gators last year, but he was dealing with ankle injuries. Durability and consistency are the biggest questions when it comes to Zuniga.
The Jets were impressed with Zuniga’s explosiveness when he was healthy and believe he can play both on the outside and inside in sub packages.
“The first thing that he showed was his versatility throughout his career,” Jets assistant GM Rex Hogan said. “Being able to play all over the front for Florida’s defensive line. He’s played anywhere from right to left. They’ll kick him inside as a sub pass-rusher as well. And then at times he would stand up and rush from different spots. So, the good thing is he shows versatility, but what he does have is explosiveness and twitch off the ball and get-off.
“You’re talking about a guy who at 265 pounds runs 4.65. And has the get-off explosiveness and twitch. Although he missed six games last season, like Joe was talking about, his production rate and what he did show when he was on the field, is what we saw in him and what we expect from him for us at the Jets in terms of being able to get after the quarterback.”
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It is tough to predict how quickly Zuniga will be able to pick up Gregg Williams’ system, especially with the current restrictions in place that have prevented players from getting to work with coaches in person.
The Jets do have a few players returning who contributed last year. Top among them is Tarell Basham, who made some impact plays late last season. In the last four games, he had a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
Harvey Langi and Frankie Luvu also return to battle for backup roles. Bryce Huff, who signed as an undrafted free agent, also has a good shot to make the team. He had 6.5 sacks last year for Memphis.
With the Jets being so thin at outside linebacker, it would not be surprising to see Williams move some people outside from other positions. Defensive lineman Kyle Phillips showed he can do it last year. The Jets also have a lot of depth at inside linebacker and could cross-train some of them outside.