Our series grading each position group on the Jets in 2015 goes on. Today we address the offensive line. As a refresher, here is the John B Grading System.
A - An enormous success by any definition
B - Happy with the production
C - Not terribly thrilled; not terribly upset
D - A disappointment
F - A total catastrophe
2015 in review
Entering the season, it felt like the defensive line was the strongest unit on the roster, and it lived up to the hype. Muhammad Wilkerson put together a career year, registering 12 sacks. That only partially tells the story of how effective he was, though. He lined up in multiple spots and won his assignment pretty much everywhere.
Wilkerson was also effective against the run. So were Damon Harrison and rookie Leonard Williams. In fact, Harrison and Williams finished second and third respectively in tackles on rushing plays that resulted in either no gain or a loss. This play up front helps explain why opponents only averaged 3.6 yards per run against the Jets, tied for third best in the league.
For his part, Williams also led all rookies as a pass rusher with 21 quarterback hits.
Sheldon Richardson only played 11 games due to suspension and an injury, but he was also extremely effective when he did suit up. The Jets did make an ill-fated move giving him snaps as an outside linebacker, where he struggled. This is the type of thing the Jets might show here and there as a look to mix things up, but they probably should limit use of this going forward.
Looking to 2016
The handling of the defensive line spot will be the story of the offseason. Two of the four key guys, Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison, are free agents. It is unlikely the Jets will be able to afford both. After investing first round pick after first round pick on the defensive line, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to pay big money to both.
The smart money has Wilkerson staying. That's the way it should be. Harrison is a great run stopper. He is a very valuable player, but Wilkerson, Williams, and Richardson are interior players who are both great run stoppers and quality pass rushers. The Jets shouldn't miss a beat without Big Snacks.
The question is whether the Jets will have to give Wilkerson the franchise tag or whether they can work out a long-term deal. The franchise tag would eat up an awful lot of the available cap space the team has. A long-term deal could lower Wilkerson's 2016 cap number, allowing the team to be more active in free agency, both in re-signing the players it has and bringing in potential upgrades.
This was the best position group on the team.