4 NY Jets players who may take a step back in 2023

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By: Rivka Boord

The New York Jets have three players who are most likely to take a step back this season

The New York Jets had many players who performed better than expected in 2022. Other than at a few positions, starting with the quarterback, much of the team exceeded preseason predictions. With the quarterback solved, it’s easy to think that the Jets’ ascension is a no-brainer.

However, things rarely stay the same from year to year in the NFL. Players who broke out one season can come back down to earth. Injuries and tougher opponents can play a big role in these changes.

Which Jets players are most likely to perform worse than they did last season, and why?

RB Breece Hall

The start to Breece Hall‘s rookie season needs no introduction. Hall was nothing short of electric for the Jets, right up until his 62-yard “Breece Lightning” touchdown against the Broncos. Michael Nania broke down how dominant Hall was statistically. However, a torn ACL and minor meniscus injury ended his season as it was on an Offensive Rookie of the Year trajectory.

The Jets have expressed hope that Hall will be ready for Week 1. A prominent sports surgeon predicted that Hall will have a strong comeback based on machine learning models. However, the reality is that when Week 1 comes, Hall will be less than a full year removed from his ACL tear. Many backs start slowly in their returns from such an injury, even if they get stronger as the season progresses. The most recent back to see a significant downturn the year following an ACL tear was the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, who averaged just 3.7 yards per carry the following season.

While there is reason to hope that Hall can pick up where he left off, the fact is that he’s unlikely to be as dynamic. He could still be good, but Jets fans are used to seeing otherworldly play from No. 20. His ADP in fantasy leagues notwithstanding, Hall’s preseason expectations must be tempered with reality.

It is also more than likely that a combination of Zonovan Knight, Michael Carter, and Izzy Abanikanda will take a chunk of the running back snaps in the early going. Joe Douglas already stated that the team is going to try to save him from himself. That likely means a lesser workload.

LB C.J. Mosley

Writing this feels odd considering that I thought C.J. Mosley was overrated in 2022. His second-team All-Pro selection belied his struggles in coverage that went beyond the box score. Mosley was officially credited with the third-lowest catch rate when targeted among 69 qualified linebackers (min. 250 cover snaps) at 65.8%, and his 83.0 passer rating when targeted was seventh-best. He also posted a 10% forced incompletion rate (T-9th), six pass breakups (T-2nd), an interception (which should have been credited as two), and only one touchdown allowed.

However, Mosley also ranked 47th with 477 yards allowed in coverage and 43rd with 9.9 yards per reception allowed. Moreover, when watching the film, it is evident that teams chose to exploit Mosley over the middle. Bill Belichick ran repeated crossing routes right in front of Mosley, knowing that he would not be able to keep up in man coverage, which the Jets run at a high rate on third down.

Mosley is entering his age-31 season and does not have the same speed he once did. He is still a fairly surehanded tackler in the run game, ranking in the 69th percentile at a 7.8% missed tackle rate. However, his run-stop rate fell from 9.5% in 2021 (T-8th) to 6.9% in 2022 (33rd). His 4.5 average depth of tackle was in the 22nd percentile compared to the 54th percentile in 2021. This suggests that he got less penetration despite the Jets’ vastly superior run defense as a whole.

Overall, Mosley continues to be an asset for the Jets in his role as the captain of the defense and a veteran leader on the team. Expecting him to play at an All-Pro level in 2023 is mistaken, though. As he ages, it is more likely that his play will decline.

EDGE Bryce Huff

In terms of efficiency, Bryce Huff was perhaps the most dominant pass rusher in the NFL in 2022. His 20.8% pressure rate ranked first among 107 edge defenders (min. 170 pass rushes), while his 6.9% sack-plus-hit rate tied for third. His 28% pass-rush win rate ranked first. His 26.5% pressure rate in true pass sets was second.

However, it’s important to note that this dominance came on just 173 pass-rushing reps. Huff was utilized in very specific situations: on third down and when the opposing team was definitely going to pass. He rarely faced double teams and was able to pin his ears back and rush the quarterback. Playing run-or-pass situations automatically reduces the efficiency of other edge rushers, both because they must stay disciplined in their rush to account for the possibility of the run and because teams more often scheme up plays to avoid the pass rush, such as screens and play action.

Many Jets fans would like to see Huff’s role increased in 2023. It’s possible that this happens, but with the selection of Will McDonald, it seems far more likely that Huff will reprise his role behind both John Franklin-Myers and Jermaine Johnson. With Johnson in Year 2, he is more likely to see an increased snap count, limiting Huff’s snaps even if Franklin-Myers kicks inside more often.

Furthermore, Huff was not nearly as efficient as a pass rusher in 2021 despite a still-excellent 17% pass-rush win rate, which ranked 17th out of 93 qualified edge rushers. His pressure rate was just 8.1% that season, which is below average for an edge rusher. Ironically, in true pass sets, his pass rush win rate was ranked just 43rd at 19.5%, suggesting that he was more efficient compared to his peers when there was the possibility of a run, a screen, or play-action than when there was not.

Additionally, the Jets may face a lot more of those passing situations defensively if they lead more often. If Huff does get more snaps for that reason, it’s unlikely that he will be able to maintain the level of dominance he showed in 2022. That does not mean he will be bad, but he set a very lofty standard for himself.

DT Quinnen Williams

This one is going to stir plenty of controversy, but I think it needs to be mentioned. Quinnen Williams had a breakout season in 2022 after three solid but unspectacular years. He did play well in 2020, but rather than taking the next step forward, his play was much less impressive in 2021. All that changed in 2022 when he was a first-team All-Pro after recording 52 total pressures (12.4% pressure rate), 12 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 32 defensive stops, and two forced fumbles.

Williams now wants to be paid for the superstar season he had, and he certainly deserves to receive the bag. However, with rumors swirling that Williams could stage a hold-in at mandatory minicamp if he fails to come to an extension agreement with the Jets, there’s the potential for an inauspicious start to the season.

What happened with Darrelle Revis in 2010 comes to mind; Revis held out of training camp and promptly pulled his hamstring early in the year, which he admitted could have been a result of his holdout. Williams may not play cornerback, but he will still need to be in great shape for the regular season. Missing part of camp could hurt that. Williams has had injury problems in the past, as well.

Furthermore, Williams had one breakout season. There is always the risk that a player could regress to the mean after that big year. Of course, Williams’ draft pedigree means that the talent was always there, so his breakout seems far more likely to be real. He showed on film that he had learned how to harness his sheer power to dominate offensive linemen. Still, the possibility of a step back can’t be discounted.

Next Article: Is the NY Jets’ skill-position blocking a strength or weakness? 

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