Jets Called on to Bench Veteran in Favor of Explosive Talent

Nathan Shepherd, Daniel Jones

Getty New York Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd (left) has been frustrating fans for years.

One of the more frustrating things for fans about the New York Jets’ current coaching staff has been the seemingly excessive rotation on the defensive line — which has not worked as planned based on their production.

ESPN beat reporter Rich Cimini shared the defensive snap count in Week 3. Here’s how the player usage shook out on the D-line against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • Quinnen Williams (DT): 46 snaps.
  • Carl Lawson (DE): 45 snaps.
  • Sheldon Rankins (DT): 38 snaps.
  • John Franklin-Myers (DE): 36 snaps.
  • Jacob Martin (DE): 23 snaps.
  • Solomon Thomas (DT): 23 snaps.
  • Nathan Shepherd (DT): 22 snaps.
  • Jermaine Johnson (DE): 20 snaps.
  • Micheal Clemons (DE): 19 snaps.

Outside of Williams, you could argue that rookies Johnson and Clemons were the Jets’ best two defensive linemen this week and they were given the least playing time. Even more unacceptable, one explosive talent has been inactive the first three weeks of the season and an NYJ film analyst is sick of it.

Jets Called on to Bench Nathan Shepherd, Play Bryce Huff

Jets X-Factor film expert Michael Nania had his fair share of opinions after the game and one rant targeted the much-maligned Shepherd — who is still somehow stealing snaps from younger talents.

“George Fant has more solo tackles this year than Nathan Shepherd,” Nania began. “Please stop holding Quinnen back from dominating games so we can see this guy play 30% of the snaps and do nothing every week.”

Nania even offered a solution that most Jets fans would probably get behind in a heartbeat. “Bench Shepherd and give JFM [Franklin-Myers] his interior snaps,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Give JFM’s edge snaps to [Bryce] Huff.”

This plan actually might help the Jets two-fold, as Nania alludes. Franklin-Myers has always been a more natural defensive tackle and yet the coaching staff appears insistent on keeping him outside. A shift inside could further unlock Williams, who’s been the driving force of this D-line early in the season.

JFM would likely take over Rankins’ snap share, with a domino effect that slides him into Thomas’ role and Thomas into Shepherd’s — in effect bumping the long-time veteran from the rotation.

This would free up more pass-rushing snaps for Huff on the outside, while also freeing up more early down usage for Johnson and Clemons who have shown promise against the run.

Where in the World Is Bryce Huff?

If you’re wondering what happened to Huff, you might sooner find his face on the back of a milk carton than inside a Jets uniform. The former sleeper UDFA has been a healthy scratch the first three weeks of the season after a torrid preseason that ended with 10 quarterback pressures versus the New York Giants (12 total in two preseason outings).

Huff’s pressure-to-snap ratio was phenomenal and flat-out dominant this summer, with a win rate of 32.6% over 45 pass-rushing opportunities. The next highest NYJ D-lineman was Martin with a 27.3% win rate.

Going one step further, ESPN analytics expert Seth Walder tweeted out a graph “translating edge pressure from college to pro” level over the past few years in April, and Huff led the entire group of newcomers in NFL win rate.

It sure is smart to let an explosive talent like that sit on the shelf and collect dust — meanwhile the Jets defense has five sacks which is tied for fifth-worst in the NFL among franchises that have played three games.

Saleh and his coaches have been stubborn in giving up on their staff favorites, like Shepherd or safety Lamarcus Joyner, but something must be done as this defense continues to struggle. Maybe it takes an intervention from general manager Joe Douglas or even Woody Johnson himself, but it’s time for the obvious personnel changes to be made.

If Jets analysts and fans can all see it, how is it an NFL coaching staff cannot?

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