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Top Jets Camp Underdogs at Each Defensive Position

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Tulane v Florida International Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Recently I listed some of my favorite camp underdogs for the Jets at each offensive position. Today, let’s take a look at some of the unheralded players on defense that I think can make a push for a roster spot and early playing time.

CORNERBACK

Parry Nickerson

If you’ve followed the Jets on social media, you’d know that Nickerson probably doesn’t even qualify as unheralded anymore. Ever since fans have gotten a load of his gamebreaking speed and feisty on-ball coverage ability, he has been a major fan favorite. I’m not sure I remember as much buzz for a Day 3 pick in recent Jets history.

Nickerson is frail (182 pounds) and highly lacking in size, with below 20th-percentile measurements at the position in weight, hand size, wingspan, and arm length.

While that lack of size can make him pay big time for his aggressive style, it is that aggression that gives you confidence he can really thrive in spite of his smaller frame. He has to prove he can balance aggression with patience so that he can still make physical plays while not finding himself overpowered by bigger, stronger receivers.

Combined with his speed, it’s no wonder fans are loving Nickerson.

SAFETY

Terrence Brooks

With Rontez Miles out due to injury, both Brooks and Doug Middleton have a chance to seize that third safety spot behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.

After coming over in a trade from Philadelphia in exchange for Dexter McDougle, Brooks made his name known with a pair of picks in the win over the Jaguars, and overall was a serviceable backup playing in 15 games. Brooks only played 92 defensive snaps on the year - outside of his season-high 30 against Jacksonville, he never played more than 9 defensive snaps in a game.

He was solid on special teams, though. Playing over 60% of special teams snaps, Brooks ranked fourth on the team with 6 special teams tackles. 5 of those were on punts, tying him for 20th overall in the league.

Rontez Miles racked up 14 special teams tackles to lead the Jets last year, including 10 on punts, tied for 2nd in the league. If Miles misses extended time, the Jets could rely on Brooks to fill Miles’ gunner role. I think Brooks is capable of producing at the same rate.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Kevin Pierre-Louis

While not a roster lock, I think Pierre-Louis is comfortably slotted into the third slot on the inside linebacker depth chart and has a good chance at making the roster due to the $2.5M guarantee the Jets gave him this offseason.

I list Pierre-Louis on here because I think he has a shot to play a sizable role on defense. We know that Todd Bowles loves athleticism and versatility in his linebackers. Pierre-Louis is an athletic freak.

I think the Jets see a specific role for him, utilizing his athletic ability to use him in certain situations where he can play in coverage or blitz. I analyzed Pierre-Louis in coverage earlier this offseason, and found that he was capable of long stretches of very sound coverage as he flashed very impressive range. He excelled at covering the exact type of passing plays Darron Lee and Avery Williamson struggled with - quick read and react swing passes out towards the sideline.

This is an example of Pierre-Louis quickly reacting and making a great play towards the sideline for a short gain on the pass to the flat. Lee in particular was most vulnerable on plays like these.

I think Pierre-Louis’ strengths compliment the weaknesses of Lee and Williamson well and that could buy him playing time.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER/EDGE

David Bass

This........ was tough. This position is extremely bare. Outside of Jordan Jenkins, who has provided two seasons of consistent strong edge setting and occasional pass rushing flashes, the Jets’ outside linebacker/edge defending group is littered with unproven names.

I settled on Bass simply because he is the most proven outside pass rusher the Jets have, as insane that is to say. Bass had a career high 3.5 sacks last year, and 9.0 for his career. His 3.5 sacks last year came in only 326 snaps, pacing him for about 10 sacks over a full season in an every-down role.

Yeah, I’m grasping at straws here. Todd Bowles minimizes the edge rush as much as he can with his reliance on blitzing, but having players who can beat tackles 1-on-1 to consistently harass the quarterback is of major value in today’s quarterback-centric NFL. Edge rusher is arguably the second most important position in the game. Imagine the havoc Bowles could dial up if defenses had to worry about how to protect the edge in addition creative blitzes from defensive backs and linebackers. Bowles is a good coach for minimizing the lack of an edge rush, but make no mistake, what stands between the Jets and a potentially elite defense is the bareness of this position.

Who can you actually be excited about? Oft-injured Lorenzo Mauldin who took a step back in an extended sophomore year role? Special teamer Josh Martin? Frankie Luvu? Brandon Copeland? Dylan Donahue? As a fan, I certainly hope any one of these guys makes a Cameron Wake-esque leap out of nowhere into sacking dominance, but it is wishful thinking. This is a position that typically requires high investment to find production - the Jets have not spent valuable assets on the position in a long time.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Henry Anderson

Anderson was acquired for a mere 7th-round pick, but has been a strong run defender in Indianapolis. He is versatile and capable of playing across just about every position on the line, making use of a constant high motor, great length, and shifty short-area quickness to beat linemen to the inside on a strongly consistent basis. He has already caught eyes with his leadership and work ethic at camp.

He isn’t known for his pass rushing ability, with only 3.0 career sacks, but Anderson has been just as solid rushing the passer. Pro Football Focus has credited him with a pass-rushing productivity (adjusted rate of pressures created per play) that ranked among the top 25 3-4 defensive ends each of his three seasons in the league. He posted career highs of 2.0 sacks and 7 QB hits last year while playing only 35% of defensive snaps. Those 7 QB hits still would’ve ranked second among Jets defensive linemen last year - projected to Muhammad Wilkerson’s playing time (698 snaps, 6 hits), Anderson was on pace to collect 13 QB hits. Anderson is a hustler but not a mauler - he plays hard but wins with good technique over raw power.

Here he is as the 3-technique on the right side, beating the left guard with a first step to the inside and a quick move to the outside to strip Blake Bortles.

Anderson is coming off of a throat injury that is likely the reason his value dipped so much. The Jets bought low on him, and if he can stay healthy (only 29 out of 48 possible games since entering the league), Anderson can be another efficient movable chess piece along the Jets’ defensive line.

Poll

Which one of these players will make the biggest positive impact for the Jets in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Parry Nickerson
    (232 votes)
  • 2%
    Terrence Brooks
    (14 votes)
  • 8%
    Kevin Pierre-Louis
    (54 votes)
  • 50%
    Henry Anderson
    (310 votes)
610 votes total Vote Now