Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the play of the defensive line this season. The question is, exactly how much better was the unit this season? This article isn't going to focus simply on the starters. I will be taking stats from all players who took snaps at the DE and NT positions. I will preface this by saying the Jets defense is multiple, and lines up in any number of formations in any given game. I am using PFF's stats to show which players took snaps in those two positions.
Let's begin the breakdown by listing the players who played each position for each season.
The first thing you will notice is that the list of players who took snaps at these positions is far smaller in 2013. The Jets played twice as many players on the defensive line in 2012 than they did in this past season. Lets begin with a look at the 2012 DE position. The 6 players on this list combined for 2112 total snaps. In that number of snaps, the DE position produced:
Batted Passes: 4
In 2013, the group of 3 linemen played a total of 2215 snaps. They combined for:
Batted Passes: 3
For the perceived improvement in play, the defensive ends' stats don't appear that far apart. The biggest improvements seem to be against the pass. Overall, in 2012 a DE produced a positive stat against the pass every 15.5 snaps. In 2013, that number shrank to every 11 snaps. If you take into account that the average NFL offense ran approximately 64 offensive plays, the 2013 DEs produced roughly 2 more impact plays against the pass per game than they did a season before.
The stats easily show the improvement against the pass, but what about against the run? For this I will be using PFF's grading system. Each player who took a snap will have their grade against the pass and against the run added into a total. This will give us a look at how the position did as a whole against both sides of the offense.
Pass Rush: 14.4
Pass Rush: 17.6
The improved play against the pas is now visible in the PFF grades. The play against the run, which is harder to see from a purely statistical view, now comes into focus. While increasing the pressure on the QB, the 2013 DE position was still able to improve itself against the run.
In the base 3-4 position, the NT is used primarily as a run stopper and is the only other down lineman position. In 2012, 4 players combined for 638 snaps. In those snaps they recorded:
Batted Passes: 1
in 2013, 2 linemen combined for 720 snaps. They produced:
Batted Passes: 1
The Jets saw far better play from the NT position in 2013 than they did in the previous season. Every stat with the exception of batted passes increased. The number of hurries quadrupled, while the number of batted passes, stayed the same. In 2012, a NT recorded a stat every 8 snaps. In 2013, a NT recorded a stat every 5 snaps. Again, using the logic that the average NFL offense took 64 snaps last season, the NT position recorded 5 more stats per game than they did in 2012.
According to PFF, the play of the NT position broke down this way:
Pass Rush: -6.1
Pass Rush: -2.7
As I said before, in the 3-4 base, the NT position is used primarily as a run stuffer. Any subsequent positive effects against the pass are simply an added treat. Neither group of NT's fared well against the pass. The 2013 line, however, did suck less against it than their predecessor. The biggest improvement was against the run, where they graded out as 10x better than in 2012.
It was easy for any fan to tell the play of the defensive line improved in 2013. With the season in the record books, and the stats freshly etched into history, it is easier to see exactly how much better they really were. With the loss of Darrelle Revis, the storyline heading into the season was how would the defense continue without him. By the end of the season our GM put it best when asked about Revis.