The veteran pass rusher suffered a ruptured Achilles and poof just like that he’s done for the season. This has left a lot of Jets fans wondering what’s next for this season, but I’ve got bad news. This injury isn’t even the worst part for this team moving forward.
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That Warm Tingly Feeling Is Gone
Once we got past free agency in March and the 2021 NFL draft in April I was left with one pressing question, what about the cornerback group?
The Jets are littered with inexperience on the backend of their defense and the front office refused to add any significant additions with free agent dollars or high draft selections.
Gang Green head coach Robert Saleh has preached all offseason he wants to give his young guys on the roster an opportunity in the cornerback room.
I didn’t like that decision, but I respected the gall that was necessary to roll with these young pups.
The other thing that made me feel a little bit better about the situation is what Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich sold to me this offseason: the scheme.
This 4-3 defense is designed to get after the opposing passer. At its’ core, it’s not a super heavy blitz scheme or a complicated-looking formation like Rex Ryan’s in the past, it’s about lining up and punching you in the mouth.
In theory, if the pass rush was good enough in this defense, the level of corner play was less relevant. In other words, you could survive with a substandard or inexperienced cornerback group if your rushers could get after the opposing quarterback.
Lawson was the main guy the Jets targeted in free agency. There were a ton of pass rushers available but they chose the former Cincinnati Bengals star over all of the rest.
He checked off all the boxes the Jets were looking for and if he was half as disruptive during the regular season as he was during training camp, this would’ve been a home run signing. Unfortunately, at the very least for 2021, we won’t get to see that reality translate to the gridiron.
Now that warm tingly feeling I had that everything would be okay because of our pass rush upfront is gone.
Are there still a lot of really good defensive linemen on the Jets roster? Of course, there is led by rising star Quinnen Williams, but there’s no sugarcoating this, the Jets lost their most important player on the roster not named Zach Wilson.
Time to Put up or Shut Up
This new look Jets defense has to create a pass rush upfront to be successful, without that even prime Darrelle Revis would eventually get torched.
Any quarterback that has forever to throw the football from the pocket can slice and dice an opposing defense.
That’s especially true for this specific defense. There’s no smoke and mirrors, everything truly is what it is. That works if you have really good pass rushers and we’ll have to see if the Jets possess the horses to make this work.
At the very least Lawson’s absence shines a very harsh spotlight on the cornerback group for the green and white.
I was worried about this group before Lawson got hurt and now that he has been removed from the picture I am even more worried than I was before.
Saleh and Ulbrich believe in this group and rave about their potential. As an overly optimistic Jets fan, I’m going to have faith but this has the potential to fall apart defensively.
It’ll likely be the next-man-up mentality from the Lawson perspective and with a lot of talent, hopefully, they can help try to fill the void. On the cornerback side of things, there will be a lot of trial by fire and that may lead to some ugly moments this season but in the long run all of these reps will be super beneficial.