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Defensive end John Franklin-Myers puts it all on line for Jets

Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers during training camp

Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers during training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. on Aug. 12. Credit: Noah K. Murray

John Franklin-Myers isn’t too big or macho to admit he’s motivated by a fear that he brought on himself.

The fear of regret drives the Jets’ starting defensive end.

Franklin-Myers was about seven months removed from recording a strip sack as a rookie on Tom Brady in the Super Bowl when the Rams released him just before the start of the 2019 season. He was 22 years old, and thought he was on solid ground. But an injury slowed Franklin-Myers during training camp, and he let it hurt his staying power on an already deep and talented Rams’ front.

"I was just kind of feeling sorry for myself and babying myself and kind of babying the injury, just thinking, ‘Oh man, it’s all good," Franklin-Myers told Newsday during a phone interview. "Instead of, ‘Look, either I’m in or I’m out.’ That’s just the way it has to be. If I’m going to be out there, I got to go my hardest. I got to put it all on the line for my team and my teammates because they’re counting on me.

"Fear of regret is knowing I could have did more and knowing I had some more left in the tank. I was just kind of saving it for the regular season. In all actuality, I didn’t get a chance to use that because they released me."

It was a humbling lesson for the 6-4 Franklin-Myers, a 2018 fourth-round pick from Stephen F. Austin. He’s 24 now and uses that experience to be the best player and teammate he can for the Jets.

Franklin-Myers speaks to Jets players about always giving their all to avoid what he went through.

"That’s the worst feeling in the world: the feeling of regret," he said. "That’s why I’m able to preach to these guys because I lived it. I know that’s something that will never happen to me again."

The Jets are the beneficiaries.

They claimed Franklin-Myers in 2019, but he didn’t play right away because of to an undisclosed injury. Last year, Franklin-Myers had three sacks and 13 quarterback hits in just 44% of the defensive snaps. This season, the Jets are relying on him to be an impact player as an edge setter in the run and a pass rusher in their 4-3 front.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich believes Franklin-Myers will have "a really good year for us, a career year for him."

Franklin-Myers got off to a good start with a sack and two tackles for loss in last week’s loss in Carolina.

"He put people on notice last year that he's a great player in general and a big player," defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said. "Everybody in our room knows the capability that he has and the tools that he brings. He can be one of the top D-ends in the NFL, man."

Franklin-Myers was expected to thrive playing opposite edge rusher Carl Lawson, who would have been double-teamed often. Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in August.

Now Franklin-Myers will get more attention, but the Jets will move him around and try to create mismatches.

They’ll line him up on either end and let him use his power on tackles. They’ll also use him as an interior rusher and see if his speed and quickness can be an advantage against guards.

"When he has an opportunity to do a little bit of both he’s very dynamic," Ulbrich said. "The more we can utilize him, the more we can take advantage of his versatility the better."

"I really like his mindset," Robert Saleh said. "I really like the way he approaches the game. I really like the way he communicates with his teammates. He’s been a blessing ever since the day we walked into this building. We’re excited to have him."

Franklin-Myers also expects to have a career year because of the system, the players around him and how he’s being coached.

He loves how the Jets are deploying him. It’s similar to how the Giants played Justin Tuck, who happened to be Franklin-Myers’ favorite player and the reason he wears No. 91.

"Every position on the line, we get a chance to attack people," Franklin-Myers said. "We get a chance to penetrate each and every play, get up field and just be destructive."

Franklin-Myers recites and lives what the Jets’ defensive line coaches want from the ends: "Rush, Crush, Close" and from the tackles: "Lock, Load, Explode."

He uses things he learned from playing with Aaron Donald and in private meetings with the three-time Defensive Player of the Year about how to break down offensive lines and learn their tendencies, and he shares it with his teammates.

There’s no question Franklin-Myers is giving the Jets his all.

"I’m forever grateful for this opportunity that the Jets gave me and I owe them everything," he said. "I give them my all every single play, every time I’m in there because I don’t know when my last play is going to be. I don’t know if I’m getting released. I don’t know what the future holds.

"I have to give my all. You can’t make the same mistake twice and I refuse to make the same mistake again."

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