Jets among top three players in 2022 all work in the trenches

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New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams during the BET 2020 Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.

Have you ever debated who the New York Jets’ best player is? Good, Pro Football Focus has compiled a list which determined the top three talents from each NFL franchise heading into 2022.

Given that the Jets’ roster is so young, it can be difficult to determine which prospects could progress the most as rookies and second-year draft picks as they grow into potential stars. PFF didn’t pick any players from Gang Green with less than four years of experience, but they noted they were “considering” rookies Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson, as well as third-year offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.

Instead, they picked three veterans and they all had one thing in common.

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The common theme is trench warfare

Both head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have preached that they intend to build this franchise through the trenches during their respective tenures.

Douglas, a former college offensive lineman, learned this philosophy with the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles. Both organizations have dominated on the offensive and defensive line in recent seasons and the Jets general manager intends to bring that style of smashmouth football to New York.

If PFF is an indicator, it’s on track. The three best Gang Green players according to the ranking site play on the offensive or defensive line – and two are on Saleh’s side. They wrote:

The Jets’ roster is much better than it was two seasons ago, but a big part of that has been New York acquiring quality starters rather than spending on elite talent. Their two biggest free agent acquisitions of the past two offseasons – [Laken] Tomlinson and [Carl] Lawson – both end up on the roster.

The Jets defensive line could benefit from a big rebound season from Lawson after missing the 2021 season with a torn Achilles. From 2017 to 2018, Lawson ranked in the 93rd percentile of the PFF pass-rushing rating among qualified rushers.

The last name on the list was defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, whom PFF placed in its top 25 under-25 earlier this spring.

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Thoughts on the list… Snubs?

As mentioned in the open, PFF included Becton, Gardner and Garrett Wilson as rising stars who could “deserve a place above with their game in 2022”, as well as Elijah Moore and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

It’s hard to place a rookie among the top three talents before they even step onto the pitch, no matter how good you expect them to be. Becton is also a tough call after a lost 2021 campaign and mixed results as a rookie, and Moore and Vera-Tucker haven’t done enough in the first year to earn one of those exclusive spots.

It’s true that Lawson never played a game as a Jet either, but his utter dominance in training camp last summer proved just how much better he was than the rest of the roster. If the pass rusher can stay healthy in 2022, he could easily become the best NYJ has to offer.

Tomlinson is another rookie, but his record in San Francisco speaks for itself. The Jets offensive line was better than it was credited for last season, but adding the ex-Niner as an anchor should still pay huge dividends, especially if AVT takes a leap towards consistency and that Becton stays on the field.

Both of these picks are PFF sound, but I might tweak the third one slightly and replace Williams with fellow lineman D John Franklin-Myers. The two are around the same age and JFM has surpassed the former first-rounder in almost all statistical categories in 2022. He also picked up more matches if we’re judging by the eye test.

Williams gets more notoriety, but Franklin-Myers has been the most reliable player for the past two seasons. Either way, the two would be in my Jets’ top five, and the duo could make for a scary pairing at defensive tackle in the near future.

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