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New York Jets Depth Chart: Zach Wilson set to start at QB

New York Jets Depth Chart Analysis | Defense

The Jets have really looked to address their defense this offseason. They made additions in both free agency and the draft. Those additions have completely reshaped the Jets’ defensive depth chart.

Interior Defensive Line

After releasing Henry Anderson, the Jets’ interior defensive line depth chart desperately needed some additions. Quinnen Williams remains the clear stand-out option on the defensive line as he enters his third season with the team. Williams was New York’s No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, and after a slow rookie season, he improved drastically in 2020. Williams had 7 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 14 QB hits, and 3 forced fumbles last season.

As the newest veteran addition, Sheldon Rankins should slide straight in as a starter. The defensive tackle has spent five years with the Saints. In that time he has 17.5 sacks, 44 QB hits, and 25 tackles for loss. However, in the last two seasons, he has just 3.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and 5 tackles for loss.

Rookie addition Jonathan Marshall has the chance to compete for a rotational role. He is a talented athlete who could make big strides with the right coaching. He likely will not start this season but could be an option to replace Rankins in that role in 2022. Folorunso Fatukasi stepped up to a starting role in 2020. He started 8 games and played 45 percent of the team snaps on defense. His numbers were somewhat underwhelming, with 6 tackles for loss, 5 QB hits, and 2 sacks. With a potential switch to a 4-3 defense, Fatukasi looks set for a more rotational role this season, if he makes the roster.

Nathan Shepherd looked set to be a starter alongside Williams and Fatukasi before the acquisition of Rankins. However, in three seasons in New York, he has just 4.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and 19 QB hits.  Tanzel Smart could challenge Fatukasi for the nose tackle role any time the Jets decide to mix it up and use a 3-4 look.

EDGE

The Jets were always a candidate to add to their pass-rush depth chart in free agency. They were set to lose two of their main options from last season in Tarell Basham and Jordan Jenkins. In place of them, they added Carl Lawson from the Bengals. In four seasons with the Bengals, Lawson has 20 sacks, 83 QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles. Lawson has been a somewhat consistent option for the Bengals but has lacked the high-upside numbers of some other pass rushers available in free agency.

Behind Lawson, there are a lot of question marks. Bryce Huff, and Kyle Phillips are the two players with a decent amount of experience, but their numbers are somewhat underwhelming. In their combined three years, they have 3.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 5 QB hits. Therefore, there is plenty of opportunities for someone else to step up. Franklin-Myers could be that player. He has seen 800 snaps in his career, and while his numbers do not stand out, there is certainly potential for him to start.

The player currently on the roster with the opportunity to take that starting role is Jabari Zuniga. As a third-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, Zuniga missed the first half of 2020 with an injury. However, he grew into a role with the Jets in the second half of the year. He is the player on the roster the Jets would ideally like to see rise up the roster at EDGE. Vinny Curry is a veteran option that could provide stability on the outside of the defensive line.

Linebacker

The Jets will be delighted to get C.J. Mosley back atop their depth chart after he opted out last season. With Neville Hewitt’s departure, who played 99.2 percent of the snaps in 2021, Mosley immediately returns as the leader of the defense. Mosley has played just two games since signing for the Jets in 2019. With the Ravens, Mosley had four seasons with over 100 combined tackles. He added 43 tackles for loss, 32 QB hits, 9 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles.

The Jets added Jarrad Davis in free agency. Davis’ career in Detroit had been somewhat up and down. His overall numbers are not that incredible, but he should still be a starter. In the past two years, Davis totaled 5 forced fumbles, even if his tackle numbers dropped from his first two seasons — he played just 25 of the 32 regular-season games for the Lions. With the switch to a 4-3 on the cards, Blake Cashman is the favorite for the other starting role. Cashman has played just 11 games, with 46 tackles in his career, so he is by no means locked in.

The Jets could switch Zuniga into a linebacker role if he does not work at defensive end. Three rookies in Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen, and Hamilcar Rashed Jr., could all take that starting role in 2021. Sherwood and Nasirldeen are coming out of safety in college, so would provide an advantage in pass coverage. Rashed is a more traditional outside linebacker and would be a better potential option if the Jets are looking for a pass rusher.

Cornerback

After essentially ignoring the cornerback position in free agency, the Jets strengthened their depth chart at the position in the draft. Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin have the inside track to start. Neither bring incredible numbers to the table, but did start for multiple games last season.

In the nickel role, it could be two rookies duking it out. Michael Carter and Brandin Echols are both capable of playing that role, but the Jets could choose to start a veteran initially. Guidry is a contender for that, having forced an impressive four fumbles in just 171 defensive snaps last season. However, Guidry struggled in coverage as a rookie.

Another rookie in Jason Pinnock could push Hall and Austin on the outside. Other veteran options providing depth include Lamar Jackson, Justin Hardee, Corey Ballentine, and Bennett Jackson.

Safety

For the Jets’ uncertainty on their cornerback depth chart, they make up for it at safety. Marcus Maye led the defense in snaps in 2020, playing 99.8 percent of the total snaps. He has really stepped up his game in the last two seasons, with 18 passes defended and 153 combined tackles. Additionally, he has allowed just a 54 percent completion rate in the past two seasons. However, the Jets were not willing to commit to a big long-term deal this offseason.

Ashtyn Davis grew into a full-time role for the Jets prior to hitting injured reserve to end the season. On the other hand, his role fits better as a third safety, leading the Jets to add Lamarcus Joyner on a one-year deal worth $3 million. Joyner has been a solid safety option in his career and should make an ideal starting partner for Maye. That will allow Davis to play a role on passing downs where he can use his speed to affect the passing game.

Both Sherwood and Nasirildeen could provide depth and a potential starting option. They are expected to move into a role as a linebacker on a more permanent basis. However, their ability to play safety will make them a valuable option.

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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