The New York Jets‘ defensive line is built upon determined, versatile and confident men. And if anybody on the team deserves to put their swagger on display, it’s these guys. Fans can dream that head coach Rex Ryan will some day do the same for the cornerback position again. But for now, they should marvel at the sheer awesomeness of these players: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Sheldon Richardson and NT Damon Harrison.
Wilkerson’s a versatile defender with the ability to play anywhere along the line. He had 63 combined tackles with a team-high 10.5 sacks in 2013 and ranked 12th in ESPN’s Best Defensive Linemen list. Richardson was the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of Year winner, with 77 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 16 games during his rookie season. Line coach Karl Dunbar said the plan in 2014 is to feature Richardson as a pass rusher, calling plays designed to get him to the quarterback faster. Harrison, nicknamed “Big Snacks” (350 pounds of snacks, to be exact), is perfect for stuffing up running lanes. He recorded 66 combined tackles with one sack and two passes defensed in 2013. He beat out NT Kendrick Ellis for the starting position and hasn’t let go.
Though the team finished 11th in defense last year, the line was elite, helping the Jets have the third-best run-stopping unit. How can they get better? The line (and the entire defense) is really focusing on not only forcing fumbles, but winning them this season. Ball recoveries are the prize this season. Many players refer to them as “50-50 balls,” meaning once it’s loose, either the offense or defense can claim it. This is the goal for the front three, and succeeding in that goal will help to embellish their greatness.
The light at the end of the tunnel for the Jets is illuminating from the front three. The great news is that they are all young and can keep producing for a long time.