The New York Jets had three first round picks in 2022.
The first was cornerback Sauce Gardner. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2022.
The second was wide receiver Garrett Wilson. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2022.
The third was edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II. To say that the first two set a high bar is to put it lightly. Just about anyone would look poor when compared to those guys, no less a rotational edge rusher who logged all of 312 snaps, which is what Johnson was.
Year 2 was different for Jermaine Johnson II. Not only did Johnson more than double his snap count while logging 748 snaps, but he did it while dramatically improving his performance overall. In fact, he improved so much that he was recently added to the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster.
But what exactly did that improvement look like? To answer that, I’m using PFF grades in each of the last two seasons as a proxy.
- Overall: Grade of 83.0 in 2023 and of 71.7 in 2022
- Run defense: Grade of 71.0 in 2023 and of 68.7 in 2022
- Tackling: Grade of 69.8 in 2023 and of 51.6 in 2022
- Pass rush: Grade of 73.7 in 2023 and of 64.6 in 2022
- Note: I’m opting to not include coverage grades because he had under 10 snaps in this role in each season. That’s the smallest of small sample sizes so there isn’t anything to really be drawn from there.
Overall, we see that Jermaine got better in every facet of the game, which reflected in a much higher overall grade. Importantly, that overall grade ranked him as the 19th best overall edge rusher in the NFL this season.
Rotational edge rusher to a full-time edge rusher that graded as top 20 in the league. That’s quite a jump for the player who was once the afterthought of the Jets’ 2022 first round class. With performances like that, maybe Johnson won’t remain the third member of the trio for all that long.