Reviewing the 2015 New York Jets season, position by position:
Position: Defensive line
Overall grade: A-
Key number: 192 -- the number of rushing yards by opposing quarterbacks. The Jets weren't nearly dominant in this area, as they ranked 15th.
Summary: The "Sons of Anarchy" lived up to expectations, and that’s saying something because the bar was set high. The defensive line was outstanding against the run, a big reason the Jets allowed only 83 yards per game (second in the NFL) and 3.58 per rush (third). Some people will say the group didn’t generate enough sacks (21.5), but that’s not a fair statement. Look at the personnel: The Jets played a good chunk of the season with four defensive tackles on the field -- Wilkerson, Williams, Harrison and Richardson. They’re power rushers, not speed rushers on the edge. Their sack production was good enough.
Wilkerson and Harrison enjoyed career years. Wilkerson recorded a team-high 12 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl, showing the ability to dominate at end, tackle and even nose tackle. In Todd Bowles’ one-gap system, Wilkerson was more of a pass-rushing presence than in the past. Harrison worked hard last offseason to improve his quickness, and it showed. He was able to shed blocks and consistently make plays outside the nose-tackle box. Not many 350-pound guys can do that. He finished with 39 solo tackles, a career high.
Richardson (five sacks) wasn’t able to match his 2014 level, but he came close. That was an accomplishment, considering his late start after a four-game suspension. He finished the year at outside linebacker, which was quite a sight -- a 3-technique tackle (all of 294 pounds) playing in a two-point stance. Bowles did it because he was short on outside linebackers and wanted to maintain a 3-4 look. Williams delivered a strong rookie year, establishing himself as a top run defender. He managed only three sacks, but he will improve as a pass-rusher. Douzable and Bowen complemented the Big Four with steady veteran leadership. Catapano was a change-of-pace rusher whose season was cut short with a foot injury.
Playing-time percentages (based on 1,056 snaps): Wilkerson 89, Williams 77, Richardson 59, Harrison 56, Douzable 28, Bowen 13, Catapano 5.
PT analysis: Only three defensive linemen in the league played a higher percentage than Wilkerson, who was the anchor for the Jets' defense. Williams logged major playing time for a rookie, an incredible learning opportunity. Richardson ended up playing 182 snaps (about 29 percent) at linebacker, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Richardson missed five games, which accounts for his low number.