5 free agents who would help revive the New York Jets’ run defense
Yesterday I wrote about the New York Jets’ poor run defense in 2021, listing some of the players who were most responsible for those struggles. With that in mind, I was curious to look at the free agent market in 2022 and see which players might be most useful to New York in this area.
Before we get into our list of the best defenders in the free agent market, let’s break down the methodology I used to compile the list.
In my previous article, I ranked the Jets’ run defensemen according to a score I created called the “run defense score” (RDS), which rates each player’s production as a run defenseman. race based on his performance relative to his peers at his position.
To calculate the RDS for each qualified defensive player in the NFL, I took each player’s percentile ranking among the qualifiers at their position in three different stats and averaged those three percentile rankings together. Here are the three statistics used:
- Pro Football Focus Run Defense Level: Single-digit PFF estimate of the quality of a player’s run defense based on the rating of each snap.
- Missed tackle rate vs. run: The player’s ratio of tackles to missed tackles in the running game. Finishing capacity estimate. Formula: Missed Tackles Vs. Run ÷ (Missed Tackles vs. Run + Total Tackles vs. Run)
- Stop rate: Percentage of a player’s run defense snaps in which they recorded a “run stoppage”, which is classified by PFF as a tackle that constitutes a missed play for the offense. Talent rating for the game.
In order to qualify for these leaderboards, players had to play at least 90 snaps against the run. That gave us 21 qualified Jets players to rank us out of 592 qualified NFL players.
To show how RDS is calculated, we’ll use the stats of Quinnen Williams, who is arguably the best defender in New York. Here are Williams’ numbers and where they ranked out of 145 qualified inside defensive linemen:
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 59.0 (48th) – Percentile: 67.36
- Missed tackle rate: 5.0% (32nd) – Percentile: 78.47
- Stroke Stop Rate: 10.0% (20th) – Percentile: 86.80
Take the average of those three percentile rankings and you get Williams’ RDS: 77.5. That’s an elite score, ranking 11th out of 145 qualified at the position (percentile: 93rd) and 65th out of 592 qualified defenders (percentile: 89th).
With that out of the way, let’s look to the possibilities of the future. Which 2022 free agents can help the Jets turn the tide in defensive play?
The list below features the best unrestricted free agent that stops the race for all five defensive positions, based on the 2021 RDS.
Linebacker: Alexander “AJ” Johnson, Denver Broncos (98.3 RDS)
- Age: 30.1
- Overall RDS ranking: 1st out of 592 (percentile: 100th)
- RDS Linebacker Rank: 1st out of 102 (percentile: 100th)
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 90.3 (3rd) – KG
- Percentile: 98.02
- Missed tackle rate: 0.0% (1st) – KG Percentile: 100.0
- Race stop rate: 10.9% (105th) – LB percentile: 97.03
Alexander Johnson only played six games in 2021 before his season ended due to a torn pec, but he was providing a dominant run defense before that point. Johnson finished the season as the league’s No. 1 player in the RDS with an astonishing score of 98.3.
Johnson made 13 run saves on 119 rush shots for a stellar 10.9 percent run save rate that ranked fourth among linebackers. He had 27 total tackles against the run without missing a single one.
The small sample size was no accident. Johnson was also an excellent rush defenseman from 2019-20. In 2020, he ranked second among linebackers with 40 rush saves. In 2019, Johnson ranked 21st among 98 qualified linebackers in run save rate (9.1%) and 20th in missed tackle rate against the run (4.7%).
Defense Edge: Tyquan Lewis, Indianapolis Colts (93.8 RDS)
- Age: 27.0
- Overall RDS ranking: 4th out of 592 (percentile: 99th)
- Edge Defender RDS Ranking: 1st out of 120 (percentile: 100th)
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 75.5 (10th) – EDGE percentile: 92.44
- Missed tackle rate: 0.0% (1st) – EDGE Percentile: 100.00
- Race stoppage rate: 8.3% (14th) – EDGE percentile: 89.08
Tyquan Lewis played just 108 snaps against the run in eight games for the Colts, but was a wrecking ball in that time. He recorded nine run saves and missed no tackles.
A 277-pounder, Lewis plays mostly on the edge but is able to move inside.
Inside defensive line: BJ Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (91.4 RDS)
- Age: 26.8
- Overall RDS ranking: 6th out of 592 (percentile: 99th)
- Interior defensive line RDS rating: 1st out of 145 (percentile: 100th)
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 68.6 (17th) – IDL percentile: 88.89
- Missed tackle rate: 2.4% (16th) – IDL Percentile: 89.58
- Race Stop Rate: 11.0% (7th) – IDL percentile: 95.83
An athletic player who primarily aligns with three techniques, don’t confuse BJ Hill with your stereotypical nose tackle. He’s a solid pass thrower who can move around the line while providing exceptional running defense inside.
Hill recorded a run stoppage on 11.0% of his run shots in 2021, ranking seventh in the position. He only missed one tackle against the run as he made 41.
Cornerback: Arthur Maulet, Pittsburgh Steelers (89.2 RDS)
- Age: 28.6
- Overall RDS ranking: 12th out of 592 (percentile: 98th)
- Cornerback RDS Ranking: 1st out of 128 (percentile: 100th)
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 84.0 (7th) – BC percentile: 95.28
- Missed tackle rate: 7.4% (36th) – CC Percentile: 72.44
- Race stoppage rate: 11.4% (1st) – BC percentile: 100.0
Former Jets cornerback Arthur Maulet took on situational duties as a slots defenseman for the Steelers in 2021. Maulet had a tough season when it came to coverage, but was perhaps the running back. most effective corner in the league against the run.
Despite ranking 99th among cornerbacks in snaps played against the run (140), Maulet ranked second in the position with 16 run saves. Maulet racked up 25 total tackles against the run and missed just two tackles.
Safety: Ronnie Harrison, Cleveland Browns (84.4 RDS)
- Age: 24.8
- Overall RDS ranking: 32nd out of 592 (percentile: 95th)
- RDS safety rating: 4th out of 97 (percentile: 97th)
- PFF Run Defense Rating: 78.3 (10th) – S
- Percentile: 90.63
- Missed tackle rate: 6.1% (19th) – S Percentile: 81.25
- Race stoppage rate: 4.5% (19th) – S percentile: 81.25
The Jaguars’ 2018 third-round pick who is still just 24, Ronnie Harrison has had a strong all-around season against the run for Cleveland in 2021. He made 11 run saves in 244 snaps against the run and n only missed two tackles. in the phase making a total of 31.
Harrison has a big frame for the safety position at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds. Known as a powerful safety, he spends most of his time near the line of scrimmage. In 2021, he lined up in the box on 44.8% of his snaps and in the slot on 20.0% of his snaps. He played deep safety on 35.2% of his shots.
Here are the top 10 RDS players who are set to become unrestricted free agents and weren’t listed above:
- CB Nevin Lawson, Jaguars (86.4) – 30.8
- IDL Calais Campbell, Ravens (84.0) – 35.4
- IDL Sebastian Joseph, Aries (81.5) – 26.9
- EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Cowboys (80.7) – 24.7
- IDL Tyler Lancaster, Packers (80.6) – 27.2
- LB Leighton Vander-Esch, Cowboys (80.5) – 26.0
- IDL Harrison Phillips, Bills (80.3) – 26.0
- LB Zaire Franklin, Colts (79.5) – 25.6
- S Jayron Kearse, Cowboys (79.5) – 28.0
- DC Kevin King, Packers (79.3) – 26.8