The Jets signed Carl Lawson to a 3 year $45 million contract to finally solve their lack of pass-rush, an unsolvable problem since the days of John Abraham. Unfortunately for the Jets they'll need to wait one more year to find out if they've managed to finally solve that conundrum.
Yesterday the devastating news came as expected. After hearing "a pop" during the joint practice with the Green Bay Packers, it was revealed that the marquee signing would miss the entire 2021 NFL season with a torn Achilles. Soul destroying!
I was as much looking forward to seeing a defensive line consisting of Williams and Lawson as teams were dreading facing it, but we’ll have to wait at least another year to see that combination. We didn’t even get to see them wreak havoc in a pre-season game with Williams returning to the full practice field the same day Lawson went down.
Losing Lawson is devastating for the Jets, but it’s far from season over. Lawson’s skill-set is hard to replace, that’s why we paid $45 million for it, if he’s an easy player to replace you simply don’t give him that kind of money.
Losing marquee talent on the defensive line won’t be new to coach Saleh, while with the 49’ers he dealt with a number of injuries to top players like Bosa and Dee Ford, and managed to keep them competitive. His job will be much the same with the Jets this season.
For the Jets, the cupboard is far from empty when it comes to talent at the position, but it will require a leap into the unknown. A lot will rest on the shoulders of JFM, a player who has flashed an enormous amount of talent and who will look to thrive in a system suited to his skill-set. Opposite JFM there will be a position of opportunity, with several names looking to stake their claim.
Former Memphis standout Bryce Huff will get the first crack, signed as a UDFA in 2020, Huff has grown and flashed his potential against the Giants in the first pre-season game. As a junior in college, he led the Grizzlies with 9.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. Then as a senior is registered 6.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss, despite attracting a lot of attention from opposing offensive coordinators.
Another player who will be looking to take advantage is 2021 UDFA Hamilcar Rashed Jr. The man out of Oregon State has a 14 sack, 22.5 tackle for loss season on his resume, and kicked off his NFL career with a sack against the Giants last weekend. It may have been a simple sack, but Rashed now has an opportunity not only to stick on the roster, but stake a claim for considerable playing time.
Jets 2020 3rd round pick Jabari Zuniga may be in the last chance saloon considering his lack of production since being selected 79th overall out of Florida, but if he was ever going to take the next step, now would be the time to do it. Zuniga only registered 5 tackles in his first year in the league and didn’t look capable of getting to the QB, but now in year two is the time to step up. Lets also not forget that Ronald Blair is still on the roster and Vinny Curry will be back at some point.
The Jets will be keeping their eyes peeled for team cuts at the defensive end position over the coming weeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few players brought in to compete when that happens.
The Jets aren’t as good a team with Lawson watching from the sofa, that’s undeniable. However, with every injury comes opportunity and 2021 is all about finding the right players for the franchise and for the system. It’s time for someone to step up.