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2021 New York Jets Position Group Analysis: Defensive Tackle

In this New York Jets position group analysis article, the defensive tackle position will be evaluated. Despite the Jets’ lack of team success over the last ten years, the defensive tackle group has always been very good. Heading into the 2021 NFL season, this group is by far the best out of any on the Jets and toward the top of the whole NFL.

Quinnen Williams is the best player on the Jets. He is a young player and a special talent. John Franklin-Myers and Folorunso Fatukasi are two of the most underrated players the Jets have. The Jets added to this strength in free agency as they signed former first-round draft pick, Sheldon Rankins.

As he enters his fourth season with the team, it is time for Nathan Shepherd to prove what he really is. Late in the draft, the Jets selected an athletic specimen in Jonathan Marshall. Tanzel Smart with a good summer could earn a roster spot. It will be interesting to see rookie undrafted free agent Michael Dwumfour in the preseason. All eight of these players and their expectations will be discussed.

Jets Position Group Analysis: Defensive Tackle

Quinnen Williams

MIAMI, FL – NOVEMBER 03: Quinnen Williams #95 of the New York Jets celebrates after sacking Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on November 3, 2019, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

The Jets selected Williams third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams was touted by some as the best player in the class. As a prospect, he was a safe one with his great talent and potential.

His rookie season was a frustrating one as it was derailed by injury. As a second-year player, he was healthy and exploded. Williams proved to be a very dominant interior pass rusher and run stopper at the 3-technique position.

Currently, Williams is the best player on the Jets and he is only 23 years old. He will now be in a better scheme fit as the front will be more about attacking upfield with speed. Along with that, the talent on the Jets defensive front is now much better, at the defensive end in particular. He is just entering his prime as a player and is a long-term building block for the Jets at an impact position. Having a special defensive tackle is huge in this scheme. Jet fans cannot wait to see Williams in 2021.

John Franklin-Myers

Franklin-Myers was one of the first players to be added to the Jets by Joe Douglas. On cutdown day right before the start of the 2019 season, he was acquired through waivers. Unfortunately, that year, he was injured and did not appear in a game.

Last season, Franklin-Myers was healthy and a force upfront for the Jets’ defense. What says a lot about Franklin-Myers talent is that he played as at edge his entire career up until last season. He was utilized inside for the first time by the Jets and was very successful.

In 2021, anticipate Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to use Franklin-Myers both inside and out with his versatility. He can be deployed similar to the way Saleh lined up Arik Armstead for the San Francisco 49ers. Franklin-Myers is a great pass rusher with production that flies under the radar. Franklin-Myers is one of the Jets’ better players and hopefully a long-term contributor.

Folorunso Fatukasi

Fatukasi is another underrated Jet. He was a late-round draft pick in 2018 who has done a great job developing. As a rookie, he only played a few snaps. In year two, he earned reps and made his impact felt.

As a run stopper, Fatukasi has proven to be dominant over the past two years. Last season, he continued to build his game. His playing time kept increasing and he was one of the Jets’ best players. Fatukasi has ranked amongst the best against the run.

As he enters 2021, expect Fatukasi to play even better. He will remain integral for the defense on running downs. Fatukasi has developed into one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in football. Fatukasi is a young player in his prime and one of the better players on the Jets roster.

Sheldon Rankins

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – FEBRUARY 28: Defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins of Louisville participates in a drill during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2016, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Rankins was a first-round draft pick of the Saints. He was with the Saints the first five years of his NFL career. This offseason, he entered free agency. It was exciting to see the Jets add Rankins’ talent.

In acquiring Rankins, the Jets fortified a strength to their football team. He is a very good defensive tackle being added to a great group. Rankins has done some great things as an interior pass rusher.

In 2021, it will be important for Rankins to remain healthy. If so, expect him to help bring the Jets defensive tackle position to an even better level. He will have an important role.

Nathan Shepherd

As he enters his fourth year with the Jets, it is time for Shepherd to show consistency. As a third-round draft pick, he has been a disappointment to this moment. This is an important season for him. Over the past two years, he has shown some encouraging things. However, there have only been a few moments. He does provide adequate depth to the defensive tackle group. This summer, he should earn a spot on the roster. Hopefully, he ends up with a role on this talented defensive line.

Jonathan Marshall

Marshall is a rookie the Jets selected in the sixth round of the draft. He has an unreal athletic ability which gives him some potential. Marshall will need time before earning playing time. Luckily, with this great defensive tackle group, he has time to develop. It will be interesting to see if he makes the roster as a draft pick or starts out on the practice squad. He does turn 24 in September so he is an older prospect. Ideally, with his special athletic traits, he can eventually become a rotational player.

Tanzel Smart

As of now, it seems Smart is a camp player. However, like with any player, if he shows good things throughout training camp and the preseason he could earn a spot on the final roster. Shepherd and Marshall are not locked to make it. Smart has been in the league for some time now, as he enters year five. He spent most of last season on the Jets practice squad.

Michael Dwumfour

Dwumfour signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent this year. He played at Rutgers. As a player, Dwumfour is a smaller but quicker defensive tackle. He has a chance to make the practice squad.


Going into the 2021 season, the Jets defensive tackle group is very exciting. It is by far the best position group the Jets have. Williams has the potential to be the second-best 3Technique defensive tackle after Aaron Donald. Williams’ dominance with the Jets is just getting started. Fatukasi will be dominant against the run. Franklin-Myers will be a great pass rusher and Rankins will have a sizable role. It will be interesting to see if he is utilized more on passing downs specifically.

It will be worth following throughout the summer if Shepherd and Marshall end up deserving roster spots. Smart has a slim chance to beat either one. Dwumfour should start on the practice squad.

The four locks to make the roster here are Williams, Franklin-Myers, Fatukasi, and Rankins. Will the Jets keep six defensive tackles if both Shepherd and Marshall earn it? In the end, this position group should arguably be the best in the NFL this season.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 11: New York Jets take the field prior to the start of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on October 11, 2020, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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