At this point, most New York Jets fans are aware that the run defense was pitiful in 2021 but according to the analytics, one key piece did his job in the trenches.
Going one step further, “JFM” trailed only safety Jason Pinnock in this category for the entire franchise and two reasons for that were his low number of missed tackles (3) and his 2.3-yard average depth of tackle (28th in NFL among edge rushers that played 50% of run defense snaps).
These numbers weren’t necessarily spectacular but they were solid — compared to the rest of the Jets roster at least — and one area even stood out leaguewide.
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JFM Dominated on 3rd & Short
According to PFF NY Jets on Twitter, Franklin-Myers had the second-highest run defense grade among fellow edge rushers on “3rd and short situations last season.” After catching wind of the statistic, the Jets breakout set a new goal for the 2022 campaign.
“Need that top spot,” he voiced, “grind don’t stop!!”
JFM was credited with an 84.8 in these situations last year, which topped every other EDGE outside of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot. Sack king T.J. Watt was third on the list.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that Franklin-Myers could be the most well-rounded piece on the Jets’ D-line, and perhaps the coaching staff is seeing the same reality. After basically striking out at defensive tackle in free agency, NYJ management decided they were set at the position in the draft.
Now, many have speculated whether the plan is to move JFM back inside for good or utilize him as a swing that plays both D-end and D-tackle. The latter could be more likely to start the season, as rookie Jermaine Johnson II works his way into a full-time starting role over time.
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Blueprint Is Coming Together
I’ll take full ownership and admit that I was and am still an observer that has criticized the Jets for not addressing the defensive tackle position with a true run stuffer this offseason. The truth is, general manager Joe Douglas did bring in several plus-run defenders this spring — Johnson, Jordan Whitehead, D.J. Reed Jr., Sauce Gardner — but they were all exterior players.
Where is the help up the gut? Well, perhaps that blueprint involves JFM.
The 6-foot-7 Oregon product began his career as more of a defensive end but after DeForest Buckner left San Fran for Indy, Armstead started helping inside more often. Now, he’s considered a top-10 D-tackle in all of football — according to an ESPN survey of league executives, coaches, scouts and players — ranking eighth overall.
JFM isn’t as tall at 6-foot-4, but his 288-pound size is on par with Armstead. Franklin-Myers also just signed an extension in 2021 and is an integral part of this regime’s long-term plans in the trenches. Obviously, so is Johnson, a 2022 first-round selection.
As mentioned above, it may not happen in Week 1 but the eventual blueprint could be to start both JFM and Johnson alongside Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson — two decent run defenders in their own right. That four-man front should have no trouble stopping the ground game.