Last week, the Jets announced that they had signed former Seattle defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson. Today, we break down Jefferson in detail.
The 30-year old Jefferson is listed at 6’4” and 291 pounds and was a fifth round pick out of Maryland in 2016. He has started 48 games in his career and racked up 20.5 sacks, including 10 over the past two years.
Jefferson was a three-star defensive end as a high school recruit and headed to Maryland where he played in a reserve role in 2012.
In 2013, his role increased and he racked up a career-high 47 tackles and three sacks. However, his 2014 season was cut short due to an injury.
In his final season in 2015, Jefferson was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection as he posted career highs in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (12.5).
He was a projected late-round pick but improved his stock at the combine and was eventually selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft by Seattle.
As a rookie, Jefferson played just three games and then suffered a season ending injury. He was then released in final cuts in his second season and ended up on the Rams’ practice squad but the Seahawks poached him back and he posted seven tackles, four hits and a sack in six games with them.
In 2018 and 2019, Jefferson was a starter for the first time, starting 12 games in each year. He had 25 tackles and three sacks along with 15 quarterback hits in 2018 and 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2019.
In 2020, he signed a two-year deal with the Bills, but they let him go after a season where he started four games and posted 23 tackles and three sacks.
Jefferson then signed with the Raiders and started every game with them, racking up career-highs in tackles (47), quarterback hits (16) and sacks (4.5).
He returned to Seattle for a third stint in 2022 and surpassed his career high with 5.5 sacks despite only starting three games. He was released for the third time in his career in March.
Jefferson has been on five teams that made the postseason and has three sacks in eight postseason games in his career.
The Jets signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $4.25 million with $2.75 million guaranteed.
Now let’s take a look at what Jefferson brings to the table, divided into categories.
Jefferson has good length but is undersized for an interior role based on his listed weight. However, that dates back to his combine appearance several years ago so he might be bigger now. Despite having a long wingspan, he has small hands.
His combine workout was a similarly mixed bag. He had an impressive 4.95 in the 40-yard dash and an excellent short shuttle, but his bench press, vertical and three-cone drill were all poor. Jefferson does show flashes of explosiveness, power and lateral quickness on film.
Jefferson has primarily played either as a defensive tackle or a 5-technique end over the course of his career, but Seattle used him for several snaps per game as an edge rusher back in 2018 and 2019, although he does that less often these days. He will rarely play as a nose or shading the center.
Jefferson is a player who works hard in the trenches and keeps playing to the whistle. Here’s a great example of that hustle.
He’s capable of handling a starter’s workload, although the Jets of course rotate their linemen anyway. He played over 700 snaps in 2021, including the postseason, and was on the field 64 percent of the time in 2019.
Jefferson is better known for his pass rushing than his run defense and has graded out poorly in that role over the past few years although his run defense grades were better in 2018 and 2019. As you can see, he can struggle to hold up to double teams in the trenches.
He is capable of shooting gaps to get into the backfield and moves well along the line laterally.
In 2022, Seattle had one of the worst run defenses in the league but showed improvements when they changed their system to a more attacking style. Jefferson’s own performance also improved after this change was made.
Jefferson’s pass rush production has been good and his 2022 season was his most productive in terms of both sacks and pressure rate. He averaged more than one pressure every nine pass rush attempts.
Despite these numbers, ESPN data indicates that his pass rush win rate was one of the worst in the league. The same study also noted that he had one of the highest double-team rates, though. Many analysts don’t put too much stock into the win rate metric anyway.
Jefferson displays his quickness on this move as he beats the guard to generate some pressure.
As noted, Seattle sometimes lined him up on the edge. Within that role, he’s been able to showcase some impressive power.
The veteran displays a good approach to pass rushing and has an arsenal of pass rush moves. He effectively uses the spin move as both a primary and a counter.
He uses his hands quite well to keep his blocker’s hands off him and gets his hands inside to throw off the blocker on this play.
Jefferson can be effective on stunts, both coming free and occupying to set up other rushers, but he exploits that here by faking the stunt and rushing up the middle.
In the running game, pad level can be an issue for him at times, but he does a good job of free up his outside arm when moving laterally.
Jefferson has rarely been very productive as a tackler, as he only had more than 30 tackles once in college and once at the pro level. He is usually a reliable tackler, although he did miss nine tackles in 2019. He has otherwise averaged less than three missed tackles per year.
He had three forced fumbles in his college career but didn’t have his first one at the NFL level until his fifth season. He had two in 2021 though.
Jefferson has rarely dropped into coverage during his pro career but has proven to be adept at batting down passes at the line, with nine passes defensed in the last five seasons.
In college, Jefferson intercepted two passes. However, he only had one other pass defensed in his career.
As noted, Jefferson has a good approach to pass rushing and is adept at executing stunts and games. He isn’t generally someone who bites on fakes or is fooled by misdirection, although he has had six pre-snap penalties in his career.
His eye discipline and reading of plays seems good. He reacts quickly and hustles to blow up the screen pass on this play.
Jefferson’s only special teams role at the pro level has been rushing kicks and punts. He did have one blocked kick at the college level.
Jefferson is a player who is known for his toughness and brings an edge. On-field discipline has been an issue at times, with five roughing the passer penalties and three other personal fouls in his career. However, since posting a career high six penalties with the Bills in 2020, he has just one in the past two seasons.
There was one concerning incident where he was ejected from a game and then tried to go into the crowd to fight some fans who were throwing debris at him, but otherwise he doesn’t have any character concerns.
Jefferson is several years removed from the knee injuries which ended his 2014 and 2016 seasons prematurely and has been durable over the past few years. He missed two games with an oblique injury in 2019 but hasn’t missed a game since then.
He’s been listed on the injury report with hip, ankle and knee injuries, as well as an illness over the past few seasons, but didn’t miss time from any of these.
Since Jefferson is better as a pass rusher than a run defender, we might see him getting some extra reps alongside Quinnen Williams in the Jets’ pass rush packages, although John Franklin-Myers will still probably get the bulk of those reps. Otherwise he should fit into the rotation where he’ll presumably compete with Solomon Thomas for a starting role barring any further additions.
The pair actually played together in 2021 with the Raiders and they were often on the field together, although Jefferson was starting and Thomas came off the bench. The fact that the Jets saw Thomas as a fit for their defense also suggests Jefferson should suit the system too, especially since his performance in Seattle seemed to improve when they went to a more attacking style.
Jefferson has also been a teammate of current Jets Tanzel Smart in Buffalo and Duane Brown in Seattle.
While the Jets were unable to land Fletcher Cox or Calais Campbell, Jefferson gives them a reasonably-priced veteran player with good statistical production over the past few seasons. This should be a useful addition to a defensive interior group that probably needs one more contributor.
Whether he’ll start and how big his role will be might depend on how fast any rookies they bring in are ready to contribute, but he should fill a role when called upon and it should be a solid addition to the group.