The New York Jets Defense: Large Expectations to Large Disappointment


What was believed to be a bright spot on a bad team, the New York Jets defense has overall been a disappointment. Through two weeks of the season, there have been few positives to take out from the performances put in by the defense.

Todd Bowles is touted around the league as a defensive guru. Even though he does not call the defensive plays, he has to have a big influence on the defense. He knows that he has a very short leash in terms of his job security. This means that he needs to get the defense right to have the best season possible.

The Jets team defense stats are near the bottom of the league and are certainly worse than previous years. Through two weeks they rank 28th in total defense. The one stat that is very surprising is the 185 yards per game that they are allowing on the ground. The Jets are usually known for their run defense. This season so far they are getting dominated up front and on the second and third levels they are missing tackles. All around it has been disappointing for Todd Bowles and crew.

The New York Jets Defense: Large Expectations to Large Disappointment

Defensive Line

The Jets defensive line headlined by Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson is very strong, at least on paper. Their performances over the first two weeks of the season have proved to be not so strong. Wilkerson, who signed a five-year, $86 million contract extension last off-season has not been himself since he signed that extension. An end that always made life on the quarterback difficult has not done that very often this season.

Williams was arguably the best player in his draft class. The Jets selected him with the sixth pick and there were high expectations from the start. He makes an impact, but sometimes goes quiet. He is a huge component to a defense that is struggling mightily.

One component to the defensive line that has definitely had an impact is Damon Harrison jumping ship and going to the cross-town rival New York Giants. Ever since he left in free agency two seasons ago, Wilkerson has not been his old self. The pass rush has not been as effective and the lack of his big body in the middle of the trenches has hurt the run defense. Steve McLendon, who was brought in to replace Harrison is not the same player and does not have the same impact.


Darron Lee has not shown much to make people believe that he is going to be a star linebacker in the NFL. It seems that his play style does not fit the league. Neither him nor Demario Davis have the ability to drop into pass coverage consistently, especially trying to play man coverage against a tight end.

On Sunday, a big and physical Oakland Raider team dominated Lee. He is at his best when he can roam free and play fast. Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers need to try something different with him because whatever they have been trying does not work.

The Jets are still missing a presence at the outside linebacker position. In the Jets 3-4 scheme, the outside linebacker position is very important, and without one, generating a solid pass rush is difficult.


If you are looking for the future of the Jets defense and the only bright spots so far, just look about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye cannot be blamed for the poor start of the season on the defensive side of the ball. Pro Football Focus gave Adams an 83.0 grade and Maye an 81.4 grade based on their performances in week two.

The rest of the secondary has not performed on the level of Adams and Maye. In week 2, Derek Carr did not have a hard time attacking the Jets defense, and Michael Crabtree racked up three touchdowns against the secondary.

Bottom Line

The Jets defense is what is going to cause them to win games. They are going to be on the field a ton because of how bad the offense is. The defense needs to keep this team in games, and right now, the way they are playing, 0-16 is becoming more and more realistic.

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