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The New York Jets had a very young defense in 2021 and there were definitely some growing pains in key areas — the main one being run defense.
We’ve highlighted before that Jeff Ulbrich’s unit was torched on the ground last year and the franchise countered that by allowing their best run-stuffer to walk in free agency. Foley Fatukasi didn’t look great in this scheme and he wasn’t necessarily the solution at a premium price tag, but that doesn’t mean the Jets should ignore this area altogether.
There are a couple of low-risk veteran-run defenders that are still available on the open market and an NFL analyst recently suggested that Gang Green add to this position before training camp.
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Former Cardinals Team Captain Connected as Suggestion
During a JetsWire article titled, “5 potential free agent targets following the NFL draft,” contributor Tyler Calvaruso had an intriguing thought in urging New York to sign defensive tackle Corey Peters. He wrote:
The defensive line is crowded after the additions of Jermaine Johnson II and Micheal Clemons, as well as the undrafted free agent signings C.J. Brewer and Savion Williams. Peters addresses a need, though, as the Jets don’t have a run-stuffing defensive tackle to supplement Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams. Foley Fatukasi was a strong presence in the run game last season. Peters could replace him in that niche.
Peters makes sense for a few reasons. For starters, he wouldn’t break the bank — signed for a little over $1.2 million in 2021 — so the only thing you’d be sacrificing is a potential training camp spot on the 90-man roster.
The long-time Arizona Cardinals veteran also offers leadership. He’s a former team captain and Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2020 who has been in this league since age 22. During that time, Peters has only missed one season due to injury in 2015. That’s 12 years of NFL experience and 11 seasons of on-field contributions.
Peters has never offered much from a pass rush standpoint — 19 career sacks — but the Jets don’t need another backfield disruptor. They need a true 4-3 nose tackle that can sub in on a clear rushing down and then take the bench after that.
With 316 career tackles and 50 for a loss, Peters could be that guy. He started 11 games for the Cardinals in 2021 — 132 career starts — and appeared in 14, another reliable campaign for the sturdy 6-foot-3 run-clogger.
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Alternative Options Are Limited
The Jets ended up totally ignoring the nose tackle position in the draft but they did sign two UDFAs that profile as a run-first DTs. Calvaruso mentioned the pair of rookies, but their names are C.J. Brewer and Savion Williams.
Williams is the bigger of the two at 6-foot-4 but Brewer appears to be the more consistent tackler according to his scouting report. It remains to be seen if either will emerge as an early-down option for Ulbrich and this defense, but both feel more like practice squad candidates in year one.
A veteran like Peters could help show them the way, while also filling a void and bringing together a young defensive line that just lost a captain. Calvaruso did link one more free agent that could entice some fans.
We’ve mentioned the former Jets’ first-round selection in the past, but a reunion could make sense. That, of course, is DT Sheldon Richardson, who spent the 2021 season with the Minnesota Vikings starting seven games and appearing in all 17.
“Richardson could play the same role as Peters as a run-stuffer on the interior of the Jets’ defensive line,” reasoned Calvaruso. “Richardson reuniting with his former team might not be as crazy as it seems. The regime that drafted him is long gone. So are the off-the-field issues that plagued his first go-around with the organization. Richardson isn’t a dominant run defender anymore, but he’s still a capable one.”