Injury to Key Veteran Pass Rusher Raises Serious Questions for Jets

New York Jets

Getty An array of New York Jets pass rushers stretching out during training camp.

The New York Jets have been relatively healthy throughout the 2021 offseason thus far.

Which has been a pleasant surprise after the array of injuries the team has suffered the past couple of years.

Although the injury bug did inevitably take a juicy bite out of the Gang Green defense and that will have several ripple effects heading into the season.

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A Veteran Stud Ruled Out for Foreseeable Future

Jets head coach Robert Saleh revealed last week that veteran pass rusher Vinny Curry will be on the shelf, conservatively, until Week 2 of the NFL regular season.

The nature of his injury wasn’t disclosed.

Curry signed a one-year deal for $1.2M (90 percent of his contract is fully guaranteed). The 33-year-old sack specialist is entering his 10th professional season and was slated to compete for the starting EDGE rusher role opposite of Carl Lawson.

There’s a chance the veteran could be placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start the year. If that happens, Curry would be out of commission for the first six weeks of the 2021 NFL regular season.

Although if he continues to heal and rehab appropriately he can be taken off the PUP list prior to the start of the season without any penalty.

Injuries Open Up the Doors of Opportunity

The game of football is a brutal and violent sport. Injuries are to be expected. When these unfortunate circumstances inevitably occur, it opens up the door for someone else on the roster to step up to the plate.

On one hand, you never want to see injuries, but at the same time, the other players in the defensive line room suddenly have a golden ticket to earn a higher place in the pecking order.

The first players that come to mind are the youngsters:

The top candidates to get extra playing time immediately are Huff and JFM.

The former Memphis product made the roster last year as an undrafted free agent and was a nice rotational piece to the defense. Huff played in 14 games and registered two sacks, but consistently created havoc.

Now he’ll have a chance to go from just a rotational guy, to THE big man on campus. While JFM could slide inside and rush the passer as a defensive tackle. Regardless of where he is asked to line up, he’ll pin his ears back and make some noise.

Similar to Lawson, Franklin-Myers is another guy that is supported by the advanced analytics. He’s on the precipice of breaking out and more opportunities could be the missing piece to the puzzle.

Two other players are lower on the totem pole and the expectations are much lower. Rashed Jr is an undrafted free agent and Zuniga is a former third-rounder who struggled to get on the field last year.

A 4-3 scheme change this offseason is a favorable defense for talented defensive linemen who can get upfield. Either player could be a surprising pop to watch as we progress through training camp.

Don’t forget about a key veteran on the team that is starving for a chance to show what he’s made of:

Perhaps the most overlooked player in this defensive line group is the savvy vet formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. Blair is super familiar with the scheme and has the skills in the toolbox to make his presence known. Keep a very close eye on him when we get to padded practices and preseason games.

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