Jets confident secondary upgrades will bolster defense against porous runs

The improvements to the Jets passing defense are obvious.

They signed cornerback DJ Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency, drafted corner Sauce Gardner No. 4 overall, selected pass thrower Jermaine Johnson later in the first round and will bring Carl Lawson back to the edge. The defense should be much improved against the pass.

But what about against the race?

The Jets finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up an average of 138.3 yards. The Rushers averaged 4.48 yards per carry against the 24th-ranked Jets in the league.

This offseason, the Jets lost their best running thug, defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, and they didn’t spend any premium resources on the inside defensive line or linebacker. Even though the NFL is now a pass league, it looks like the Jets could be vulnerable against the run.

But head coach Robert Saleh said his side are better against the run in 2021 than the numbers indicate.

Jets coach Rob Saleh thinks his team’s run defense will improve after the high school upgrade.
bill kostrun

“A lot of things that skewed our numbers are on the second tier of defense in terms of explosive ordnance disposal,” Saleh said. “When you’re a single-high [safety] team like us you’re gonna get bent you’re gonna go to the second tier and can you get it down before it breaks for 80 and before it breaks for 60 and some of these big long runs that we have we given up? So from an efficiency standpoint, just looking at it through analytics and all the different stats that are out there, from an efficiency standpoint, we were in the top half of the league in run game. Unfortunately we gave up, we are among the worst from an explosive point of view, 12 meters or more. We dropped a lot of explosive games and massively explosive games that really skewed the numbers. »

Jets internal stats indicate they were 22nd in the league in explosive play percentage on called runs (no quarterback shoving). They were 10th in tackles for loss and 18th in EPA per play (expected points added).

Saleh pointed to explosive plays (12 yards or more) as the biggest problem. The Jets have only had one game, a win over the Bengals, in which they did not give up explosive play in the running game. They have played seven games in which they have dropped three or more.

Their worst performance was against the Colts, when they gave up 260 rushing yards, including touchdown passes for 78, 34 and 21 yards.

Saleh said there needed to be a collective effort at all three levels of defense to avoid big runs.

“It’s everyone,” Saleh said. “You are offended. The running game crease is now under the secondary, so the last line of defense saves it, keep it within 12 yards, and if it goes past them, that’s where you get – e.g. match from Indianapolis, we were pushed aside. We missed the gap and hit in the B gap, reached the second level and [the secondary needs to] save it. I think that’s probably one of the most underrated things we ask of our high school. The big guys can keep it inside 12, and if you can keep it inside 12, your running game will still be good.

Sheldon Rankin
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The Jets’ run defense will be tested immediately in Week 1 against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, one of the best running teams in the NFL. The Jets have a few additions that should help. Whitehead is a safety that’s active around the line of scrimmage and he’s already made big plays in training camp to blow up the points. The Jets bolstered their linebacking corps with the addition of Kwon Alexander to camp.

“I think everyone will do their job,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “I know it sounds simple, but there have been many times where unfortunately we were down at the start of some games and guys are pushing to make plays, guys are trying to do too much, trying to make plays that aren’t there or try to make plays they plan to be there. Then you step out of your space and it’s an 18-yard run or it’s a 30-yard run. Those things add up over the course of a game. I think it’s as simple as guys doing what they have to do. It’s not a big secret. It’s not a big formula.

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