Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Earlier this offseason, we speculated on how the defensive players on the Jets roster would fit into new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' system. Let's now consider how the players brought in via free agency and the draft will fit.
The Jets solidified their depth on the defensive line by re-signing Steve McLendon and Henry Anderson, both of whom should suit Williams' system well. However, the major shake-up came when they drafted Quinnen Williams with the third pick of the draft.
Williams is a unique player - an undersized nose tackle with impressive quickness - so this will be a test in terms of how well the Jets can adapt their system to maximize his abilities. If he can be anywhere near as disruptive and productive in a Gregg Williams system as Aaron Donald was during his time with the Rams, that would be a dream come true for the Jets.
In terms of depth, the Jets brought in three undrafted free agents to compete with the two players the Jets drafted in 2018, but none of these are expected to contribute much unless there are injuries.
Ironically, one of the players who we felt could perform well in Williams' system was Darron Lee, but evidently that was never part of the plan. Instead the Jets have overhauled their linebacker position with CJ Mosley signed to take over as the defensive signal-caller, and Avery Williamson moving into Lee's old Will linebacker position. The changes would have been even more dramatic had the move for Anthony Barr not fallen through.
Mosley is going to be key to the success of the defense this year. He'll have a lot of autonomy in terms of calling defensive audibles and making pre-snap adjustments. With all the communication breakdowns in the secondary last season, Mosley can make a massive difference for the Jets if he is able to help them eradicate such mistakes.
At the edge defender positions, after failing to land Barr, the Jets ended up not doing much in free agency, other than re-signing Brandon Copeland. However, they drafted Jachai Polite who has a good chance to be the team's designated pass rusher and a future starter. They also added a few undrafted free agents for competition.
Depth at the linebacker positions could come from another draft pick, Blake Cashman, who the Jets will hope can be effective in coverage. The Jets also claimed James Burgess, who started 11 games for Williams in 2017 and 2018, although he won't be a lock to make the roster.
In the secondary, the biggest change was bringing in Brian Poole from the Atlanta Falcons. Poole is probably just a replacement for Buster Skrine to play in the slot in sub-packages. However, the Jets may be hoping for Parry Nickerson to push him. Then again, Nickerson was reportedly getting some work on the outside during organized team activities, so perhaps Williams is going to be more willing to have some overlap between the boundary and slot corner positions than his predecessor.
The team's sixth-round pick, Bless Austin, seems likely to be more of a long-term project, especially since he's coming off a second ACL tear. Undrafted rookie Kyron Brown might actually have a better chance of contributing this year. Brown is physical, competitive, and has good length which are attributes Williams seems to like in his cornerbacks. Williams has a good record of developing undrafted players over the course of his career, so perhaps a player like Brown could be his latest success story.
Unless the Jets make another move, Williams will be banking on a bounce-back year from Trumaine Johnson, who played well under him when he was the Rams' defensive coordinator a few years ago. It's somewhat surprising the Jets didn't target any other cornerbacks that had a history with Williams, as there were a number that hit the market.
Finally, at safety, the Jets didn't really make any moves. They'll be hoping Marcus Maye stays healthy this year, but the three players who started games in his place last year - Rontez Miles, Doug Middleton and Darryl Roberts - are all back. The only new additions were undrafted rookies Santos Ramirez and John Battle, who are probably longshots to make the roster.
Williams has a flexible defensive system and a track record of putting his players in a position to be successful. Most of the players added this year should therefore find roles in Williams' defense, although this won't be the finished article.
Specifically, the Jets need someone to step up at cornerback and on the edge, otherwise those will be holes that they'll need to fill next season -- or perhaps even sooner, should the opportunity arise.