Serious slump: Jets defensive linemen 0-for-602 as pass-rushers

Updated: October 18, 2017

7:00 AM ET

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Where have you gone, Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam?

In a bygone era, they were the New York Sack Exchange, a front four that devoured quarterbacks. More than three decades after their heyday, they’re still beloved by New York Jets fans. Now in their 60s, they actually have something in common with the current group of Jets linemen.

No sacks in 2017.

It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the season. While the Jets (3-3) have overachieved as a team, their defensive line — thought to be the strongest position group — has underachieved.

The Jets have used eight defensive linemen, and they’ve combined for 602 chances to rush the quarterback, according to ESPN Stats Information.

And not a single sack.

This is shocking because they have a player who once notched 12 sacks in a season (Muhammad Wilkerson), another who made three in a Super Bowl (Kony Ealy) and another regarded as one of the top young linemen in the league (Leonard Williams).

As a team, the Jets have only seven sacks (31st in the NFL), with the production coming from linebackers and defensive backs. Linebacker David Bass leads with two, one of which occurred when he was lined up in a three-point stance. In some of their sub packages, the Jets use linebackers in a “down” position.

Explaining the oh-fer, the company line is the defense must do a better job of stopping the run, forcing teams to become one-dimensional. That’s a legitimate reason. When you’re 28th in run defense (139 yards per game), there aren’t too many third-and-long situations when you can crank up the pass rush.

But, still: We’re not talking about a paltry number of sacks; we’re talking about no sacks.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” Williams said. “We definitely need to get more pressure and more hits and more sacks on the quarterback.”

You’d like to say they’ve faced a litany of hard-to-sack quarterbacks, but that isn’t the case. Tom Brady, Tyrod Taylor and DeShone Kizer have taken a fair share of sacks this season, but the Jets registered only three against them.

Forget sacks; the Jets aren’t even getting hits on the quarterback. Inexplicably, Wilkerson has only one.

“If we stop the run a little better, we can rush the passer a little more,” coach Todd Bowles said. “Right now, we have some spurts where we did and then had some spurts where we didn’t, so we just have to be more consistent at it and the pass rush will be there.”

Is more blitzing the answer? The Jets already rank among the blitz leaders, so that’s probably not the cure. Tighter pass coverage? Yes, that could help. Aggressive press-man coverage on the perimeter could take away the quarterback’s first read, forcing him to hold the ball.

In the end, it probably comes down to winning one-on-one matchups. The Jets aren’t doing that on a consistent basis, and that’s disappointing because there’s too much talent for this group to be known as the New York Slack Exchange.

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