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Jets to unleash full defensive line for first time vs. Giants

At one end will be Carl Lawson, flanked by John Franklin-Myers. Inside will reside Quinnen Williams and Solomon Thomas.

Those are four experienced players who can all create havoc in their own way, a foursome that will be supported by rookies Micheal Clemons and Jermaine Johnson, and veterans Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd and Vinny Curry, among others.

Sunday afternoon, the Jets will get a look at the unit — one of the strengths of their team, if not the strength — together for the first time in their preseason finale against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Quinnen Williams (right) and Carl Lawson at a recent practice
Quinnen Williams (right) and Carl Lawson at a recent practice
Bill Kostroun

“A lot of guys in our room have an edge because they have something to prove,” Lawson said after practice on Wednesday. “It’s such a talented group that if you’re not producing or putting something [good] on film, you feel left out. It only makes everybody want to compete and be serious and have that edge about them.”

There is a lot of excitement over what the group can together. There is youth and experience, a mix that could lead to big things.

Lawson, the 27-year-old standout defensive end who ruptured his Achilles tendon during a joint practice with the Packers last August, is particularly excited for Sunday, his first game in over a year. The former Bengal was initially expected to play in the first preseason game against the Eagles on Aug. 12, but shortly before kickoff, head coach Robert Saleh opted to wait a little longer until unleashing Lawson.

That time will come against the Giants.

“Always looking forward to getting out there, looking forward to going out and play,” he said. “I’m always excited. … I think I got my pregame jitters out in the Green and White scrimmage. I think I got that mental hurdle over with.”

The group up front didn’t get nearly enough help last year from a secondary that was lacking strong options at cornerback. But after drafting Sauce Gardner fourth overall and signing former Seahawk D.J. Reed to a three-year, $33 million deal, it should make their job easier. Plus, adding a healthy Lawson, with some youth mixed in, could make the defensive front even more difficult to deal with.

The position is so loaded, the Jets may not be able to keep everyone on the roster, which Saleh said is a “good problem” to have.

“He’s a high-motor guy. He only goes one way, and that’s fast,” middle linebacker C.J. Mosley said of Lawson. “He’s never going to stop until he gets to the ball. That’s his MO, that’s the way he practices. When we’re on the sidelines, he’s working [on] moves. You can just tell he’s ready. He’s itching for it. When he gets out there, starts making pays, we’re all going to be excited for him, because he’s been waiting two years for this, and so have we.”

It certainly will be harder for the opposition to focus on Williams and Franklin-Myers. They each finished with six sacks to lead the defense a year ago.

Lawson watched them closely and now believes the defensive line can have a monster season, saying “the sky is the limit.” But only if they pay attention to details and realize they can only reach their lofty goals by treating every day like it’s a game day. Right now, it’s just potential. But he sees plenty of promise that goes beyond merely getting to the quarterback or overpowering an offensive lineman.

“We got a bunch of guys that love football. We just got a bunch of overall good people,” Lawson said. “I enjoy coming to work every day. That’s something that’s invaluable for me.”

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