After back-to-back games in which the New York Jets’ run defense was exposed, Gang Green’s front seven was asked to complete the difficult job of slowing down Miami running back Jay Ajayi.
New York was successful and held Ajayi to just 16 rushing yards on 11 carries — a season-low 1.5 yards per carry average — and limited the Dolphins to 30 total rushing yards. It was the fifth time in the Todd Bowles era the Jets held an opponent to 30 rushing yards, and the first time since Week 7 of the 2016 season.
It took a joint effort for the Jets to halt Miami’s potent rushing attack. Linebackers Demario Davis and Darron Lee had their best games of the season, although that wasn’t a particularly high bar to surpass. Additionally, the defensive line trio of Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Steve McLendon were effective in winning the individual battles at the line of scrimmage.
Here are a few plays that show New York’s positive play.
During Miami’s second play from scrimmage, rookie Jamal Adams (#33) — lined up as a box safety — did a tremendous job of sealing the edge. He absorbed the blow from the blocker and was able to shed the block and bring down Ajayi. Adams continued his strong start to the season, performing admirably against both the run and pass.
Later on that first drive, we had our first Lee appearance. Lee (#58) filled the intended gap, causing Ajayi to cut back inside on the run. From there, Leonard Williams (#92) was able to continue his pursuit to the ballcarrier and make the play, stuffing Ajayi for no gain. Williams took away the cutback lane that Ajayi tried to find after Lee stuffed the C-gap. Lee has been solid in run defense through his first two seasons, and this play was evident of that talent. His next step is improving his unreliable coverage skills.
Another nice play by an inside linebacker — this time, Demario Davis (#56). Davis shot through the “A” gap and forced Ajayi to attempt to bounce the run to the outside. The combination of Davis and Jordan Jenkins (#48) tripped Ajayi up in the backfield, and enabled Lee to make the tackle after a short gain. New York still gave up four yards on the run, but it was another display of gap coverage from the linebacker unit.
Davis’ huge tackle for a loss was aided by Steve McLendon (#99, more on him later), who got a great jump on the snap and forced Ajayi to cut toward the right side behind the line of scrimmage. From there, it was an easy tackle for Davis, who made sure to wrap up effectively yet again.
I promised more McLendon. This is simply a phenomenal individual effort. Arguably the best defensive play of the day and a perfect example of how the defensive line can stymie the run game.
The Jets looked terrific against the run in Week 3 and truly controlled the tempo of the game. The short runs put Jay Cutler and the Dolphins behind on the sticks, and forced several three-and-outs. New York’s aggressive approach and swarming of the ball made for its best defensive effort of the season — and one that will be tough to top.