The New York Jets should have one of the NFL’s best young safety tandems when Marcus Maye returns to the starting lineup opposite Jamal Adams.
There are many reasons Jets fans should be excited about their defense heading into the 2019 season. From the addition of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley and No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams to the return of blue-chip veterans like Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams, this unit could end up being one of the NFL’s best this year.
But an underrated aspect of the Jets defense in 2019 will be the return of safety Marcus Maye, who missed a solid chunk of the 2018 season due to injury.
A Pro Bowler for the first time himself last year, Adams makes it clear what Maye’s return will mean for the Gang Green defense (via team reporter Ethan Greenberg):
He’s a playmaker, man. There’s no forgetting about Marcus Maye. He’s a guy that can make plays on the ball. He’s the best, if not one of the best free safeties in the league. And I’m definitely humbled to share the field with him and call him a friend, call him a brother. He’s going to be fine and he’s going to make plays.
While Maye would obviously prefer to be on the field with his team at all times, he’s still making the most of his time on the sideline while he recovers from the injury that ended his 2018 campaign. He’s putting plenty of work into the mental side of his game while the physical side catches up:
It’s definitely frustrating watching on the sideline because I know I could be out there right now, just running around with the team, getting reps. Other than learning a new defense, I’m just getting mental reps and seeing everything from the sideline, just watching how the guys react and stuff like that. I’m learning as I’m watching.
A second-round pick out of Florida in the 2017 NFL draft, Maye was drafted by the Jets with their next pick after selecting Adams, as the team hoped to pair them up for the next decade or more as one of the league’s best safety tandems. He made an immediate impact, starting all 16 games as a rookie.
Maye was well on his way to another stellar season in 2018 when injuries limited him to just six games.
With more playmakers added for the 2019 season, there should be less pressure on Maye to carry the load for a young defense. That should give him the comfort and space to come back at his own pace, and once he makes that return to full strength, he should give the Jets just another dynamic defender to police the back end of the secondary.