The Los Angeles Rams averaged 1.9 yards a carry in their Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals, they were the 5th team to average under 2 yards per rush in the Super Bowl, but the only team to walk away with a victory.
The Bengals did a great job with their defensive alignments to ensure that the Rams were unable to combo block them and move to the 2nd level. B.J Hill didn’t have his best game, but he was a huge part of why the Bengals improved from the 29th ranked run defense in 2020 to the 7th ranked run defense in 2021.
Hill was a 3rd round pick of the New York Giants out of North Carolina State back in 2018, but he immediately got lost in the depth of the line. In four seasons, three with the Giants and one with the Bengals, Hill has only appeared in 500 snaps or more twice...they just so happen to be his most productive seasons.
The Jets are about to have Foley Fatukasi hit free agency and his skill-set may not be ideal for the Jets scheme, a scheme that would ideally like to blitz around 20% of the time (right where San Francisco was in 2021) and rely on their front four to defend the run but also effect the pass with both external and internal pressure.
Quinnen Williams did a fine job contributing 6 sacks and 34 total pressures and Sheldon Rankins chipped in with three sacks of his own, the issue with Rankins is that he was absolutely horrendous against the run, and a reason why the Jets finished with the 29th ranked rushing defense in the league, he was statistically one of the worst run-defending interior defensive lineman in 2021 (PFF grade of 34.4 ranked him 111th out of 118 players who played at least 300 snaps).
One option for the Jets is to let Foley sign elsewhere and cut Sheldon Rankins to save almost $5.5 million against the cap. With prized 2021 free-agent acquisition Carl Lawson set to return, and several edge defenders available in both free agency and the draft the Jets could move John Franklin-Myers back inside, a position more suitable to his skill-set in this wide-9 system. JFM’s inside/outside versatility would give the Jets significant flexibility when it came to defensive alignments.
Signing B.J Hill would make a lot of sense if the Jets were to go down that route. As mentioned earlier he was part of a Bengals defensive line that was ranked 7th in the league against the run. B.J Hill specifically is a top 20 run defending defensive lineman in the league right now, and he’s only 25 years old. The run defense box has been ticked, but here comes the value.
In the two years where B.J Hill has seen significant time (500 snaps or more), he’s contributed 14 sacks and 65 pressures. He’s coming off a season where he had career highs in both (8 sacks, 38 pressures). Pairing him with Quinnen would allow the Jets to improve both their run defense and the internal pressure that was missing at times in 2021. He also rarely makes mistakes and rarely misses tackles, his 3.6% missed tackle rate last season was a very good number.
The defensive line may not be the biggest priority, but it wasn’t the strength it was built up to be either. You should always look to improve in every area and I think there are improvements to be made on the interior of the defensive line and the Jets can’t be afraid to let players who may not fit the system (Foley) go.
If you released Sheldon Rankins to make room, you’d only be adding around $3 million worth of cap for 2022. PFF has B.J Hill’s estimated contract at 3 years and $26.2 million, an annual value of $8.75. It’s not the home run move to put the Jets over the top and would he even entertain leaving a team who’s just been in the Super Bowl for a team who has not made the playoffs in over a decade? Probably not, but that shouldn’t stop the Jets from trying.