The New York Jets are in desperate need of a pass rusher, but they’re going to need help from their young and potentially explosive talent on the defensive line.
New York drafted three linemen in the first round and a fourth, and while none of them are going to be able to rush for a ton of yards, they will give the team one of the league’s best pass rushers in the form of the young D’Aundre Russell, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
“I know that he’s going to have a great year,” head coach Todd Bowles said when asked if he thought the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Russell would make the team.
“He’s a really good athlete, he’s a very quick kid, and he’s really fast.”
Russell is a two-time All-SEC pick and a two time First Team All-American at Michigan State.
His athleticism was on full display in the spring game, when he racked up five tackles, two sacks and two quarterback hurries in the Spartans’ 38-24 win over North Carolina State.
The only knock on Russell is that he is undersized for a defensive lineman, but the Jets plan on using him as a rotational player this fall.
At 6-feet-7, 315 pounds, Russell is an athletic edge rusher who is very good in space.
He is a perfect fit for the Jets’ 4-3 defensive scheme, where defensive linemen are used to defending the quarterback and the run, rather than the pass.
Russell will be the only defensive lineman on the roster who can play inside and outside linebacker, and the Jets will use him as an inside backer, a position he has been used extensively throughout his career.
He has the athleticism to play defensive end in the NFL, but Russell was not a player that the Jets were concerned about at the combine.
Russell had his best workout in Indianapolis, showing off his speed and strength.
Russell also played well in drills and graded well against the run and pass.
He had good balance, and had the speed to cover the quarterback.
“He’s going be a big help to us this fall,” Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of Russell.
“We’ve got to make sure that we keep our pass rushing in.
We’ve got some guys coming out that can do that, so he’s definitely going to come in and help us in some ways.”
Russell was one of five defensive linemen to participate in the agility drills, which involved rotating in place, sprinting to the ball, and dropping into coverage.
Russell finished with four tackles, a sack and an interception.
When he’s on the field, Russell’s versatility is obvious.
He can play both defensive end and outside linebackers, and can also play nose tackle.
Russell has a nose for the quarterback, and plays with his feet.
He’s a little bit of a slasher, but is very solid with his hands.
He also has a nice burst to his game, which he showed off in Indianapolis.
Russell showed his versatility in the passing game, too.
He was a big factor in the Colts’ first-quarter comeback win over the Jets.
In the second quarter, Russell forced a fumble, ran the ball down the sideline and recovered it for a touchdown, which was the only sack the Colts recovered in the second half.
The Jets went on to win by a touchdown with a last-second field goal in the fourth quarter.
Russell was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Week after rushing for a team-high 10 yards on seven carries in the victory.
If Russell can keep his explosiveness, he’ll likely be a force for the team this fall and will be a welcome addition to the Jets, who have struggled to score points on the road this season.