Nathan Shepherd Compares Jets D-Line to Avengers, We Determine the Rest

Nathan Shepherd

Getty New York Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd does his best "Hulk smash" impersonation after a tackle on December 20, 2020.

The New York Jets defensive line has been the talk of the team so far in training camp from the additions like Carl Lawson and Sheldon Rankins to the utter dominance on the field.

Not to mention former first-round pick Quinnen Williams, who just returned from a lengthy recovery after foot surgery.

This unit is double-digit numbers deep and each player is just as hungry as the next. So much so, that the franchise just released a promising young undrafted free agent in Michael Dwumfour, simply because they could not fit him within the stacked positional group.

Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd had the ultimate comparison for this unit during his press conference on August 17.

“It kind of reminds me of like a Marvel’s Avengers team, everyone has their own little special powers [and] things like that that they bring to the table. The biggest thing is [that] it keeps it all really refreshing, and then it’s really cool to see someone learn a little bit of this or bring a little bit of that and you just got a really good mixture of rushers and players.”

When asked during the follow-up, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound bruiser said that he’s probably most similar to a “Hulk smash” type of player, referring to himself as a “big power guy” who’s working on his finesse moves and footwork.

Shepherd told the media that Captain America is still “to be determined,” but I’ve seen enough to make a judgment call on this, as well as the rest of the Avengers core.

Without further ado, below is my Jets defensive line-Avengers comp.

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Time to Finish What Shepherd Started

Nick Fury – Robert Saleh

He may be missing the eyepatch but the Jets fearless leader has the intelligence and the wild stories to embody Fury, the infamous head of SHIELD — he even has the shiny bald head if we’re talking about the Samuel L. Jackson interpretation.

Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer described Coach Saleh as an “ultra-smart, high-energy individual that anybody would want to follow.” Jets center Connor McGovern also had an interesting first impression of the first-year head coach. He said: “I feel like every great coach I’ve had always tells those parable stories to get points across, he has some great ones.”

Spiderman – Jonathan Marshall

Like Spidey, Marshall is the new kid on the block but don’t doubt his potential. The 6-foot-3 defensive tackle has been labeled as an “athletic freak” with a near-perfect Relative Athletic Score that outperformed both Mekhi Becton and Williams.

You may not catch him slinging webs, but he will wrap up the opposition using a mix of explosive strength and nimble agility. One thing’s for sure, this rookie’s got plenty of talent.

Doctor Strange – Vinny Curry

Curry is sidelined for the moment but the elder statesman of the bunch makes for an easy Doctor Strange. After years of study and practice, the pass-rusher has learned techniques that rookies couldn’t even dream of comprehending.

These skills have kept him in the league for nine seasons and counting, giving him plenty of wisdom to bestow on his teammates.

Hawkeye – Ronald Blair

After working with Saleh in San Francisco, Blair was brought to New York as a specialist that knows how to play the ‘LEO’ position in this scheme. He’s precise and exact with his movements as a technician against the run, but he can also get to the quarterback once in a while.

Based on Hawkeye’s SHIELD background with Fury (Saleh), the sharpshooter makes a brilliant comparison for our newest ace in the hole.

Black Panther – Bryce Huff

In terms of Marvel, Black Panther burst onto the scene late and absolutely killed it with fans, just like 2020 undrafted free agent Huff. The edge rusher isn’t the biggest or the strongest, but he displays lightning-fast quickness and sneaky cat-like reflexes.

Like T’Challa, Huff has a Simba-type vibe to him — humble, yet fiercely ambitious. Perhaps the former UDFA is also destined to be king someday.

Vision – John Franklin-Myers

Whenever I hear Franklin-Myers speak, he seems wise beyond his years. Vision on the other hand is literally a computer program built by Tony Stark that becomes humanized by an Infinity Stone.

He also turns into one of the strongest and most versatile Avengers out of nowhere, just as ‘JFM’ has taken on those characteristics for Gang Green.

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The Heavyweights of the D-Line

Black Widow – Sheldon Rankins

Rankins may not appreciate me switching his gender but hear me out on this one. The veteran joined the Jets looking for a fresh start with a new family of players. If you’ve seen Black Widow’s standalone film or know anything about her background, you’d know this sounds familiar.

The defensive tackle is also easy to overlook within a formidable unit like this, but he’s exceptionally skilled in his own right as a former first-round pick. Lastly, Rankins has become a sort of spokesman for this D-line, as we’ve seen Black Widow become for the Avengers in storylines like Civil War.

Thor – Quinnen Williams

Outside of possibly Vision, the noble and righteous Thor is 100% the strongest Avenger. He’s also a born leader and a cornerstone of the superhero team like Williams, who was a top prospect out of Alabama.

This one may seem weird to some people, but something about ‘Q’ and his quirky personality between the unquestioned chivalry and the viral “bless you, thank you” moment that only a foreign Asgardian like Thor could truly understand. As for his hammer, Williams emulates the weapon every time he crushes opposing quarterbacks.

Iron Man – Folorunso Fatukasi

Ever since Steve McLendon left, ‘Foley’ has taken over his leadership role with his charismatic personality and his intense pregame huddles. The underrated run-stuffer wasn’t born with any superpowers, he worked his butt off to get here and build his career.

Stark is the man behind the suit who built Iron Man to end the weapons crisis that his company began. He’s also the original leader that brings the Avengers together. Fatukasi may not be partying it up with supermodels on TMZ in his spare time, but he definitely encaptures the undercover traits of Stark — selflessness and a willingness to sacrifice himself for the team.

Captain America – Carl Lawson

I can’t believe Shepherd balked on this question because this one is obvious. Lawson is the clear Captain America, I mean his girlfriend is even an Olympian for Team USA — and the edge rusher rocks USA gear often to support her. He’s also the face of this D-line, even if it seems like he’d prefer to stay out of the spotlight.

Not only that, while Fatukasi is the in-your-face ‘OG’ leader, Lawson is the new one that teammates learn to follow by example. Whether it’s him teaching Becton during practice or his unwavering determination to be the best pass-rusher that he can be, Lawson is a natural Cap. To quote Captain America: The First Avenger, Lawson is “not the perfect soldier, but a good man,” and a damn-good football player too.

The self-proclaimed Hulk, better known as Shepherd, called the potential of this defensive line “limitless.” He continued: “What we’re able to achieve is really on us. We definitely have all the pieces we need here and really it’s just us to up to continue to sharpen our blades and our talents and continue to push each other.”

Yep, the Avengers was a smart call by the defensive tackle.

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