Betting on Bryce
🌟 Good morning!
The problem with writing a daily newsletter is you put down your thoughts every day, and like most human beings, I tend to change my mind constantly when it comes to the Jets.
I recently projected my first thoughts on the Jets’ 53-man roster, and who I believe will make the cut. As a part of that projection, I had defensive end Bryce Huff missing the cut, as soon as I hit publish I regretted that decision…but with TJW being a newsletter those words were already safely in your inbox.
I’ve looked into it a little more and I’m going to disagree with myself.
👊 Seth Galina of PFF released their linebacker rankings ahead of the 2022 season and he has the Jets down at #26 which is hard to argue with considering we’ve identified that as the potential weak link this season. Seth said: “After sitting out in 2020, C.J. Mosley endured the worst-graded season of his NFL career. That 42.0 mark was his first time dropping below 70.0 since 2015. He had been one of the more consistent players at the position in the NFL, and so there’s a chance he regains his form.”
💰 PFF also released a list of the best contracts for each franchise, stating that the deal John Franklin-Myers signed last season was the best value for the Jets. That four-year $55 million deal is out of guarantees after the 2022 season which is even better. They also named Jordan Whitehead’s 2-year $14 million deal as a good one, and I’d argue that most of the contracts Joe Douglas has handed out have been team-friendly.
☝️ I’m going to stick with PFF here as well, as they projected the quarterbacks most likely to improve in 2022 and sure enough, Zach Wilson made the list. “Wilson is the worst returning quarterback in the NFL by EPA per pure dropback, and so he can really only improve. The model projects a 15.7% chance of him remaining at the bottom of the league, but it's more likely the second-year BYU product will improve with rookie Garrett Wilson and a healthier Elijah Moore in the wide receiver room. The model is also pessimistic about the degree of his improvement, giving him a less than 20% chance of being a top-16 quarterback in the NFL in 2022. There is a chance it is not fully accounting for the typical size of quarterbacks' second-year leaps.” - For anyone interested, Sam Darnold was #3 on their list, just behind Wilson and Justin Fields.
As alluded to at the top of today’s newsletter, I recently posted my first projection for the 53-man roster, and left Bryce Huff off. Had it been a 54-man roster he would have made it, but I instantly started thinking about Huff and how for a UDFA he’s already made good strides in his pro-career.
After I took some time to recalibrate my thoughts I managed to squeeze him into the 53-man roster and the full breakdown will come midway through camp, but for now, I just wanted to quickly share a few thoughts on Bryce and his progress.
I’d be lying if I said I watched a lot of Memphis games in 2019, but having gone back to look at the statistics I think it’s safe to say that Huff can consider himself unlucky to have gone undrafted. Over the course of his final season for the Tigers, he accumulated 54 total pressures, good for the 8th best number among edges in college football. More than guys like Gregory Rousseau and Aidan Hutchinson and more than Chase Young too.
He led Memphis in sacks in both his junior and senior seasons and recorded 34.5 tackles for a loss over his final two seasons. He was one of the more productive pass-rushers in college football.
With the lack of any real depth at the defensive end position and needing to take a few shots to improve their pass-rush, the Jets inked Huff to a deal. Whenever a UDFA signs a contract with a franchise, their chances of making the 53 are slim, but Huff did just that and made an instant impact.
He may have only recorded 2 sacks on the season but his pass-rush win rate of 14.8% ranked him 2nd on the team, trailing only John Franklin Myers. Although he didn’t always close the deal, he beat his blocker at a good rate. That 14.8% ranked him as the 46th best pass-rushing defender based on at least 150 pass-rushing snaps…that’s 46th out of 227 players.
Fast-forward a year and he’s shown the kind of improvement that you want to see, despite missing over a month with a back injury. He doubled his sack number from 2 to 4, and led the team with a 17% pass-rush win rate which ranked him as the 28th best defender based on at least 150 pass-rushing snaps, 237 players in total. He improved his pressure numbers from 14 to 17 as well, in terms of his pass-rush he approved across the board.
So far we’ve only spoken about his pass-rush ability, mainly because I believe that based on everything we know about the Robert Saleh defensive system, the ability to get to the QB is prioritized above all else. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the other aspects of the game, and that’s where Huff will need to show the most improvement. I don’t doubt that he can get to the QB, even more so with teams worrying so much about Carl Lawson and being worn down by the duo of Lawson and Johnson, but can he improve against the run?
Huff’s run defense grades have been poor through the first two years of his pro career, 46.6 in 2020 and 45.5 in 2021, and his tackling deteriorated with his missed tackle rate rising by more than double, 16.7% in 2021 in comparison to 7.7% in 2020. So there are areas where he’ll need to make improvements if he hopes to see the field considering the depth the Jets now have at defensive end. But the improvement with his pass-rush coupled with his bargain price tag mean I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on the 53-man roster.
What can I say, I made a mistake with that one.
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