The New York Jets were lit up by Andy Dalton in Sunday’s 23-22 defeat, but there are a few positives the Jets can take away from that game.
First of all, things might have turned out differently if Nick Folk had not missed an extra point and had a field goal blocked in the first half. Secondly, their defensive front seven was absolutely monstrous in the pass-rush game.
Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest reason for optimism going forward, that monstrous pass rush gets Sheldon Richardson back for the Jets’ Week 2 game against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
Richardson, who was suspended for the season opener for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy – he was involved in a high-speed police chase and arrest last July – had 13 sacks and 62 solo tackles over his last two seasons.
“He’s playing catch-up right now,” defensive tackle Steve McLendon told the New York Daily News. “We know how Sheldon is. Sheldon likes the ball. … You’re getting a dynamic guy, a Pro Bowl-caliber guy like Sheldon coming back. He can get you with speed. He can hit you with power. He can hit you with quickness. He’s pretty much got it all. So we’re excited.”
As they should be. Without Richardson, the Jets managed seven sacks against Dalton – according to Pro Football Reference it was just the third time in team history that the Jets had lost a game while registering seven sacks. Six of those sacks came from the defensive line, as McLendon had two, defensive end Leonard Williams had 2.5 and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson had 1.5.
Another thing about the defensive line’s performance that should not be overlooked, even if it isn’t as sexy as a bevy of sacks, is that the unit helped absolutely shut down the Bengals’ ground game. Running back Jeremy Hill was limited to 31 yards on nine carries, an average of 3.4 yards per carry, and Giovani Bernard carried the ball just five times, though he did gain 25 yards.
Forcing the Bengals to abandon the ground attack allowed the pass rush to run wild, and they did. Now that Richardson is being thrown back into the mix, the Jets have an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line.
“We’ve seen what we can do without him, and we know that we can do more with him,” Williams said.
The return of Richardson will not just make the Jets better, it will make them deeper. The players will be able to stay fresher as the game progresses on Thursday night. And on top of that, it will bring a new level of competition among the players themselves.
Oh, you think that was a good play? Wait until you see what I do!
“I’m sure he’s going to be real hungry,” Williams said of Richardson. “That’s just going to create competition among all of us. He’s going to make all of us go harder.”
The Jets certainly have their share of issues. They didn’t come close to slowing down A.J. Green on Sunday in spite of that pass rush. But getting Richardson back should help the Jets improve all aspects of their defense moving forward.