Grading the safety situation of the Jets
By Ryan Patti
The New York Jets will have a younger defense in 2017 and it starts at safety. All eyes will continue to be on this bunch each and every day.
The New York Jets underwent a massive overhaul at safety this offseason and it’s no wonder why. Marcus Gilchrist provided sub-par production last season, showing he was unworthy of the four-year $22 million contract he signed in 2015. Calvin Pryor was dealt to Cleveland in exchange for linebacker Demario Davis. Pryor is a member of the infamous ‘Idzik 12’ and hasn’t lived up to the hype of a first-rounder. General manager Mike Maccagnan went ahead and plugged those holes in a hurry.
Jamal Adams fell in Gang Green’s lap at sixth overall in this year’s draft. The thumper played three seasons at LSU totaling 209 tackles, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and two sacks. Some scouts even graded him as the best defender in the class over No. 1 selection Myles Garrett. Could that be a bit far-fetched? Absolutely, however, Adams is capable of being a cornerstone piece for the next decade.
What makes him as valuable as he is is his ability to cover tight ends. Pryor under both Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles was strictly an in-the-box safety who specialized in stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. You shouldn’t put much stake in the preseason, but we got a sneak peek of what Adams can do in coverage.
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In Saturday’s outing with the Giants, he made an athletic play on third down against rookie tight end Evan Engram in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. For a team who has struggled mightily in covering the tight end, he’s already an essential piece of the defense.
His partner in crime Marcus Maye was taken in the second round of this year’s draft. He played his college ball at Florida logging four seasons with 207 tackles, seven forced fumbles, five interceptions and one sack. Maye is in line to take Gilchrist’s role at free safety and occasionally see time at strong safety when Adams needs a breather. He also earned snaps in the slot in his sophomore campaign, so he can be an option there if the Jets get thin at cornerback. Like Adams, there’s definitely a lot to like about Maye.
Rontez Miles is the veteran of the unit, although he currently might be on the bubble. He lacerated his eye in the second preseason game in Detroit and has reportedly not been able to see out of it, per the Media Relations Department of the Jets. This is a bit concerning because New York just traded Ronald Martin to the Colts for long snapper Thomas Hennessy. Miles has to make a speedy recovery or else the Jets will begin the year with minimal depth at strong safety.
The last guy worth taking a deeper look at is Terrence Brooks. Doug Middleton tore his pectoral muscle in the first tune-up vs. Tennessee, placing him on injured reserve. As a result, Maccagnan sent Dexter McDougle to Philadelphia to acquire Brooks. In three seasons with the Eagles and Baltimore, he recorded 32 tackles, four forced fumbles, one interception and a fumble recovery. It’s hard to imagine him not making the roster since he’s the lone free safety besides Maye.
Shamarko Thomas, Armagedon Draughn, and Robenson Therezie round out the rest of the group. Thomas has an outside shot at the final 53-man roster if Miles can’t recover quick enough from his eye laceration. He was signed in June after spending 2013-16 with Pittsburgh. Draughn and Therezie will most likely duke it out for a spot on the practice squad.
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All in all, this position is up and coming. The main issue is depth. Adams and Maye bring plenty of energy to the table, but if one wears down in the later stages of a game, the defense could get burned. The Jets need to find a player other than these two who can make an impact.