The NY Jets addressed many positions of need during the recent free agency period. Specifically, the Jets solidified the defensive line with the signings of both Carl Lawson and Sheldon Rankins. They also added a potential starter in Jarrad Davis at linebacker.
However, one position that the team did not address in free agency was cornerback. Technically, newcomer Justin Hardee is listed as a cornerback, but will be used exclusively on special teams. Lamarcus Joyner was added as well, but will play safety this upcoming season.
The Jets will almost certainly select a cornerback very early on in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. One player who could fill that void as an early-round target is Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern.
Newsome has the traits and production of an eventual impact starter at the NFL level. He has good size and length for a cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds.
The former Wildcat has seen a steady rise in his value throughout the draft process and projects as a versatile defender who should be able to excel in both press and zone coverage in the NFL.
The Jets’ current depth chart at cornerback includes Blessuan Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry. All three players have shown promise, but Newsome has the athleticism and potential to be an upgrade and an immediate day one starter for the team.
Greg Newsome’s strengths
Newsome has strong movement ability in the short and intermediate ranges which allows him to maintain good positioning against wide receivers. He also has very good instincts for timing when attacking the ball.
In addition to his physical skillset, Newsome is a very smart player for his age. He will be entering the upcoming draft as a true junior but has proven to be very proficient at processing speed and route recognition.
Newsome had only one interception for his college career but displayed excellent ball skills with 21 pass breakups over his last 15 games.
The Chicago native has the ability to play in man coverage and can mirror any receiver that is close to him. However, his true specialty is playing in zone coverage.
He is very adept at watching the quarterback’s eyes and reacting to the ball. Newsome has great instincts and his overall abilities are equal to that of a boundary cornerback.
Newsome had played almost exclusively as an outside cornerback for Northwestern but did play on both the left and right sides of the defense. He has played in press-man, off-man, and zone coverages showing strong capabilities in each scheme.
In 2020, per Pro Football Focus, Newsome allowed a 31.6 percent completion rate and just 7.8 yards per catch.
Greg Newsome’s weaknesses
There is certainly a lot to like about the overall talent of Newsome but there are some aspects to his game that will need to be improved upon. In particular, his run support and tackling ability are a bit inconsistent.
Newsome needs to align heads up on the ball carrier for him to make a tackle without issue. At times he appears to be somewhat hesitant in wanting to make a tackle if other defenders are around the ball carrier.
Newsome will also need to work on his ability to get off of blocks sooner and improve on his tackle strength. His run support is his biggest weakness, but Newsome’s solid work ethic should allow him to improve at the NFL level.
The other concern with Newsome is injuries. He only played in 21 games with 18 starts during his college career at Northwestern. Newsome missed a total of 13 games including the Big Ten Championship because of various injuries.
The good news is that none of these injuries were serious and should not affect his playing ability going forward, but it’s something to keep in mind.
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NY Jets’ prediction
Given his versatility and athleticism, Greg Newsome should be a great fit in the Jets’ 4-3 defensive scheme. His ability to play in Cover 3 should be very enticing for head coach Robert Saleh.
According to PFF, Saleh ran a Cover 3 defense 32.3 percent of the time during his tenure as defensive coordinator with the San Fransisco 49ers. Newsome’s intelligence and experience in this defense should increase his chances of being a day one starter for the team.
The Jets are in need of an athletic, boundary cornerback who has speed and the ability to be a disruptive force both in press coverage and when playing off the ball.
Newsome’s quickness and confidence make him an ideal fit and could provide the Jets with the lockdown cornerback that they have been lacking since the days of Darrelle Revis.
Saleh has a reputation for being flexible and adjusting his defensive schemes towards the skillsets of his players. This would be of great benefit in Newsome’s early development and ease some of the growing pains that young cornerbacks experience in their rookie season.
If Greg Newsome is available when the Jets make their second pick in the first round of the draft they should seriously consider selecting him.
Newsome and the Jets appear to be a match made in heaven.