Despite injuries, trades, and under-performing players, the New York Jets defense was pretty solid in 2019. Against the run, they were terrific. Gang Green was tied for first in the NFL in yards-per-attempt (3.3) and second in yards allowed per game (86.9). By putting the opponent in an early-down in distance hole, they were able to overcome some of their deficiencies against the pass.
So far the Jets have jettisoned last year’s cornerbacks and let 2019 sack leader Jordan Jenkins leave as a free agent. The defensive line is good, especially against the run.
None of the XFL corners made a big impression on me. Gang Green is better off taking their chances with a draft pick or waiting for pre-roster bonus cuts before camp to find someone who can play opposite Brian Poole.
Linebacker is a different story. Head coach Adam Gase won’t be content to begin camp with Tarell Basham and Harvey Langi as uncontested incumbents at outside linebacker. No offense to Frankie Luvu and Ahmed Gooden, but if any of the four are starters on opening day, there is a problem.
A few former XFL players might be able to help. Steve Johnson from Seattle was a monster. He led the XFL with 48 tackles in five games and was literally all over the field for the Dragons. Johnson may not be the most talented guy out there but at 6-1, 239-pounds he’s a solid player, has good size for an outside linebacker, and likes to hit. The 32-year-old, six-year NFL vet isn’t a long-term answer, but certainly worth a shot.
Another linebacker to consider is DeMarquis Gates of the Houston Roughnecks. He was a standout in the AAF and a star in Houston with 32 tackles (three for loss), a pair of sacks, and an interception. Gates has added a little more muscle to his 6-2 frame since going undrafted in 2018. If his XFL play is any indication, the former Ole Miss linebacker is ready for an NFL shot.
One other player that I’m a fan of is Anthony Johnson, who was a New York Jets player for seven games in 2016. His ability to play any spot on the defensive line would be an asset. A few days before the XFL season started, he was traded from L.A. To the D.C. Defenders. Johnson picked up the defense quickly and was a force the minute he took the field. When play stopped he was third in the league with 2.5 sacks.