Jets defensive line living up to the hype

FLORHAM PARK N.J.- While most of the Jets personnel, like the offense and secondary, have struggled through four games, one unit has lived up to and perhaps exceeded expectations.

The Jets defensive line has continued to prove that they are one of the best and perhaps the best in the NFL.

The Jets are ranked third in total defense, allowing 291.2 yards per game . The most telling stat however is that the Jets lead the NFL in sacks totaling 14 through four games.

Leading the charge for the d-line is 2013 Second-team All-Pro Muhammad Wilkerson and 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner Sheldon Richardson.

Wilkerson ranks sixth in the NFL in sacks with three, and Richardson with two sacks of his own ranks 17th . Sandwiched in between Wilkerson and Richardson is linebacker DeMario Davis who has two and a half sacks.

“(The Jets defensive line has) Some youth and mixed with some guys who have been solid players in this league for a long time.” Said San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers, “It’s a challenge every week and any time you’re going against a Jet defense that we’ve come to know over the years, it’s tough.”

San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy said that the Chargers have to “play our best game to date” to combat the Jets defensive line.

“Rex (Ryan) has always had one of the top defenses as long as I have played against him, coached against him and everything. He does an outstanding job with his scheme and his philosophy and system that he has in place. So it’s a major challenge for us. We got to play our best game to date (in order to win).”

Perhaps, the most telling stat about how well the defensive line has played so far this year, is how well the front four is playing against the run.

The hallmark of every Rex Ryan defense is that the opponent won’t be able to run on them and this year has been no exception.

The Jets defense ranks in the top five or every major defensive rushing category. They rank first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, allowing a minuscule 63.2 yards per game. They rank fourth in yards per carry, allowing only three yards per carry.

And they have only allowed one rushing touchdown, which ranks them third in the NFL, and that wasn’t even to a running back, it was a one-yard touchdown run to Lions quarterback Mathew Stafford on a broken play.

The Jets run defense is no aberration in the first four weeks of the season, they have faced some pretty good running backs. In order, the Jets have faced, former two-time First-team All-Pro Maurice Jones-Drew, last seasons Offensive Rookie of the Year winner and Second-team All-Pro Eddie Lacy, two-time Pro Bowler Matt Forte, and former First-team All-Pro Reggie Bush.

The point being, that while most are talking about the so called “murderer’s row” of quarterbacks the Jets have had, and will have, to face. They have faced some of the NFL’s best running backs and completely took them out of the game.

And according to Ryan, this kind of run-stopping defense is exactly what he envisioned.

“I think even last year, we led the league in (yards) per carry, so that’s what you want.” Said Ryan, “I know it’s a passing league but we all know eventually, you have to stop the run. I think we can do that…obviously we’ve been fairly successful at it and I think it’s a combination of how we play collectively.”

While Ryan believes successfully stopping the run is a team-oriented task, he acknowledged that the “guys up front” aka the defensive line have a lot to do with it.

“It’s all 11 guys that provide run defense, but certainly the guys up front,” Ryan said.

In addition to Wilkerson and Richardson, the emergence of nose tackle Damon Harrison aka ‘Snacks’ has a lot to do with the dominance up front. Harrison is widely regarded as one of the top run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL.

“We’ve got Mo Wilkerson, we’ve got Sheldon, (and) we’ve got (Quinton) Coples, three first-round picks. I get that, but it’s also the development of Damon Harrison (that has formed a strong run defense).”

While the Jets may not have a championship offense or secondary, they do have a championship level defensive line and they have continued to prove that with their play this season.

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