Jets HC Robert Saleh Willing to ‘Bare-Knuckle’ Box Over No. 4 Pick

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh is ready to fight for a position of need.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has never been secretive about his love for defensive linemen, and general manager Joe Douglas shares in his values.

At the end-of-year press conference, Douglas and Saleh both explained that the line of scrimmage will always be a priority on both sides of the football. “I think the way Joe and I see football is identical,” Saleh noted at the time, “we believe that it starts in the trenches.”

While the offensive line made strides in 2021, the defensive line regressed as players transitioned into a new system. Going into this offseason, this DL unit went from a strength to a clear area of need — and the Jets HC is ready to fight for more D-line talent in the draft.

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In This Corner… Bobby ‘All Gas’ Saleh


"This Offseason's Not Close To Done" | Head Coach Robert Saleh Press Conference | The New York JetsListen to head coach Robert Saleh speak to the media at the annual league meeting in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday, March 28, 2022. Subscribe to the New York Jets YT Channel: bit.ly/2KRtBJd For more Jets NFL Action: bit.ly/2rkCbal #NewYorkJets #Jets #NFL For more Jets action: newyorkjets.com/2022-03-28T14:15:29Z

Coach Saleh addressed the media for the first time since before free agency on March 28. Although most of the Q-and-A covered general housekeeping and reactions to signings, a couple of quotes did stand out.

One, in particular, pitted Saleh against Douglas in a heavyweight battle of brawn. Saleh was discussing the current shape of the trenches when a reporter asked how the front office would decide between a top offensive and defensive line prospect if both were available at No. 4 overall — being that the head coach loves DL and the general manager is all about OL.

“We’re gonna go into a bare-knuckle boxing match and get after —” Saleh joked before cutting the sentence short with a laugh. He concluded: “No, it’s going to be a great discussion, for sure.”

This all stemmed from a comment that the Jets HC made moments before when asked about adding another premier pass rusher. “Well you guys know me, I’ve said it before — even if we had the fearsome foursome we’d still be wanting to add a pass rusher, it’s always going to help.”

“If the opportunity presents itself, we’ll get it, but we’re not going to force the position either,” he continued before touting Gang Green’s depth at the position — John Franklin-Myers, Carl Lawson, Jacob Martin, Bryce Huff, Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins were all named by Saleh.

“If someone’s there, we’ll pounce on it,” the head coach reiterated.

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2 Glaring Weak Spots as Familiar Face Enters the Fold

A few hours after Saleh’s press conference, the Jets announced that they had signed the number three overall pick in 2017, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

The former San Francisco 49ers cog has familiarity with this system, but the key is his versatility as a player that can swap from the interior to the exterior at a moment’s notice. Douglas and Saleh love pieces like this on both sides of the trenches and although Thomas provides key depth, the Jets are still missing one or two pieces on the D-line.

The major hole is at nose tackle. After Foley Fatukasi walked in free agency, the Jets did nothing to replace their top run-stuffer following a season of lousy run defense.

Nathan Shepherd and Jonathan Marshall profile as the two prototypical nose tackles on the roster heading toward the draft, but some believe ‘JFM’ might shift inside next to Williams in 2022 if the Jets select an edge rusher at No. 4.

The other weakness is the pass rush itself, although that really hinges on Lawson. If last year’s monster free-agent acquisition is healthy and productive, this may not be much of a need after all.

Douglas has already signed Martin in 2022, who provides upside depth along with Huff and Tim Ward. Don’t forget intriguing prospects like Bradlee Anae, Jabari Zuniga and Hamilcar Rashed Jr., who will attempt to unlock their potential as they battle for a roster spot.

Despite all of that, the starting offensive line is currently in much better shape after the Laken Tomlinson investment. For that reason, it’s hard to see the Jets leaving round one of the draft without a sparkly new edge rusher — so give me Bobby Saleh in the bare-knuckle brawl.

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