Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) runs onto the field...

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) runs onto the field to face the Tennessee Titans during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Sheldon Rankins believes as the Jets defensive players become more comfortable in the system, they will be able to unleash their "superpowers" and become more dominant.

Rankins, the veteran defensive tackle, likened his superpowers to Batman.

"When I’m the vet in the room, I feel like I’m walking around, looks like he’s not moving real fast," Rankins said after practice on Wednesday. "But the moment I put the pads on, I’m twitched up, I’m powerful, I’m explosive, I got all the moves. It’s kind of like Batman. He’s Bruce Wayne, until he puts the suit on. Now he’s fighting crime. I’ll take that one."

Rankins isn’t fighting crime, but he’s fighting off offensive linemen, and winning frequently.

The former Saint is one of a number of defensive linemen making an impact for the Jets. Rankins has one sack, three quarterback hits and one fumble recovery this season. He almost had another sack Sunday, when the Jets finished with seven on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Quinnen Williams beat him to it.

Even though his sack numbers aren’t high, Rankins feels he’s been "as disruptive as anybody in the interior in the league."

"I don’t have a ton of sacks or anything right now," he said. "The way I feel like I’m winning my rushes, the way I feel like I’m going about wreaking havoc, that’s going to come and that’s going to come within the framework of the defense."

The Jets signed Rankins in free agency to be a big part of Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense. Everything is built around the line attacking, rushing the quarterback and trying to make his life miserable. Saleh felt Rankins, the No. 12 pick in 2016, would fit right in and the interior of the line.

"It was just a perfect match in terms of his style of play with the way we ask him to play," Saleh said. "It’s just a perfect match with the way his game is made. He’s showing it.

"When you talk to people around the league, especially in (the Saints’) building, he’s an unbelievable leader, he’s got tremendous work ethic, the way he takes care of his body, he’s meticulous in everything he does. I’m really excited for him and the success he’s had so far."

Saleh said Rankins started to show last year that he was regaining the form that made him so productive his first few seasons in the league – before he was slowed by injuries.

Rankins had eight sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss in 2018. But he tore his Achilles during the playoffs that year, suffered an ankle injury in 2019 and knee in 2020. Fully healthy now, Rankins feels he’s all the way back.

"I feel like me," he said. "I feel like the guy who’s an every down dominant, defensive tackle in this league. I think each and every week I’m just beginning to feel like, ‘OK, there it is.’ Each and every time I’m able to rush and execute my plan, I’m starting to feel like myself whether it’s a spin move, whether it’s power, winning on the edge, winning quick inside, whether it’s disrupting in the run game.

"I feel like I can do everything that made me that special player before. I’m able to do it again now. I look forward to doing the rest of this season with this defense."

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