On Wednesday, we looked at the five offensive players the Jets should watch during this year’s Senior Bowl.
Now, it’s time to look at the defensive side of the ball.
After finishing 32nd in the league in 2021, Gang Green fielded one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. The Jets were fourth in yards (311.1) and points allowed (18.6).
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner both were both first-team All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was a second-team All-Pro selection.
Although they didn’t earn any end-of-season honors, defensive ends Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons both made impacts as rookies. The Jets will look for their next crop of rookies to help them improve from their 7-10 mark in 2022.
Here are five defensive players they should watch next week down in Mobile, Ala.
HENRY TO’OTO’O, LB, ALABAMA
The Jets already have one former Alabama linebacker on their roster in C.J. Mosley, and they may look at another one this April. To’oTo’o is one of the best linebackers in this year’s class and could further cement that with a great showing during Senior Bowl week.
To’oTo’o is a high-motor LB who shows a ton of explosiveness off the ball. After he transferred from Tennessee, To’oTo’o recorded 205 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in two seasons with Alabama.
His size (6-2, 228 pounds), along with his questionable coverage skills, could keep him out of the first round of the draft. But he could improve his stock with a great showing next week in front of coaches and general managers from around the league.
KEEANU BENTON, DT, WISCONSIN
Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins will be a free agent in March. If the Jets want to get younger inside alongside Quinnen Williams, Benton could be a player they could target.
At 6-4, 320 pounds, Benton is imposing and is also faster than he looks. He can get into the backfield quickly as either a run defender or a pass rusher.
As an excellent run defender, Benton is a different defensive tackle than Williams. Last season for the Badgers, Benton recorded 36 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 12 games.
Right now, Benton is a third or fourth-round pick in terms of projections. If he can show scouts he’s a three-down player, Benton could be a lock for Day 2 of the draft.
JAMMIE ROBINSON, DB, FLORIDA STATE
The Jets cornerback room is solid with Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II. But Gang Green could use someone with the versatility of Robinson who can play at safety and as a slot cornerback.
Robinson is a tough-hitting safety who has the ability to get better at the next level. He is excellent in the box against the run and has good enough skills to become a good safety at the next level.
After transferring from South Carolina to Florida State, Robinson registered 183 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five interceptions in two years. Don’t be surprised if Robinson only continues improving his stock as the draft process progresses.
RONNIE HICKMAN, S, OHIO STATE
Safety is a significant need for the Jets as both Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead were inconsistent throughout last season. Hickman is another player who Gang Green could evaluate heavily during the Senior Bowl.
Last season for the Buckeyes, Hickman had 53 tackles, one interception and seven pass breakups. These numbers are down from his 2021 season when Hickman recorded 99 tackles, one sack and two interceptions.
Hickman is a downhill safety who can read and understand offensive plays in front of him. He also has the ability to come close to the line of scrimmage and play the run.
One knock on Hickman is his struggle in single-coverage situations. With all the talented receivers at the Senior Bowl, scouts need to see if Hickman can improve in that area.
ANDRE CARTER II, EDGE/LB, ARMY
Carter is what some might call a boom or bust prospect. At 6-7, 260 pounds, Carter has the intangibles scouts drool over as he has incredible athleticism for a player his size.
However, Carter is coming off a down 2022 season. Last season for the Black Knights, Carter had 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. The season before Carter looked like one of the country’s best defensive players as he had 44 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
Carter is a raw talent and with the right coaching he could unleash his full potential. It will be interesting to see how he performs against a big jump in competition throughout the week.
The Jets don’t necessarily need pass-rushing help, but it’s never bad to have a bunch of players who can rush the quarterback.