The NY Jets were impressed with what they saw from rookie defensive back Jason Pinnock over the final few weeks of the 2021 season. The rookie fifth-round pick switched positions midseason and was forced into the starting lineup after a slew of injuries.
It's safe to say that he more than exceeded expectations in the team's final three games of the season. There was optimism that Pinnock could not only return as the Jets' top backup safety in 2022, but that he could even push for a starting job.
And then roster cutdown day came and the Jets shockingly waived their promising young safety. The Jets were hoping that Pinnock would clear waivers and that they could stash him on the practice squad, but the New York Giants were quick to make their crosstown rivals pay for their mistake.
Pinnock was released in favor of third-year safety Ashtyn Davis and under-the-radar undrafted rookie Tony Adams, but it's hard to argue that Pinnock didn't deserve a roster spot over both of them. The Giants (and likely many other teams) clearly felt the same way.
The NY Jets made a grave miscalculation with Jason Pinnock
A fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pinnock was originally drafted to play cornerback but made the switch to safety in the middle of his rookie season after the Jets were hit hard by the injury bug.
Little was expected of Pinnock when he was forced into the starting lineup which is what made his stunning success all the more enjoyable.
The former Pittsburgh standout finished as Pro Football Focus' fourth-highest graded safety over the final three weeks of the season. His 89.5 run defense grade was the highest among all safeties while his coverage grade was still top-10 at his position.
PFF grades aren't everything, but the tape checks out as well. Pinnock was legitimately one of the Jets' best defensive players over the final few weeks of the season. This was despite the fact that he was a rookie playing a position he had only been practicing at for a handful of weeks.
The Jets decided to bring back veteran Lamarcus Joyner this offseason, but the soon-to-be 32-year-old is hardly a long-term solution. There were some who believed that Pinnock could be the Jets' starting free safety as soon as 2023.
His performance this summer seemed to confirm that notion as Pinnock was one of the stars of training camp. Meanwhile, his competition didn't do much to stand out, aside from also-released veteran Will Parks.
Despite this, the Jets felt more comfortable with both players on the roster over Pinnock and even Parks. It's a weird decision on the part of the organization and one that seemingly came down to special teams value.
Davis is a favorite of special teams coordinator Brant Boyer and that, along with his versatility, is what helped him retain a roster spot despite his less-than-stellar production on the field.
But what's more important here? The Jets' top backup safety is now a complete liability on defense while their other backup is an undrafted rookie. Pinnock and Parks both proved last season that they can play in this league, and they did so at a high level.
It was a small sample size, sure, but what Pinnock and Parks put on tape over the final few weeks of the season was better than anything Davis has done in his NFL career.
Special teams matter, but not if they come at the expense of a player who has a legitimate path to a starting role on this team. What's Ashtyn Davis' long-term future look like? He plays out his rookie contract next season and isn't re-signed? That honestly feels like a best-case scenario for the former third-round pick.
Waiving Pinnock was a short-sighted move that could come back to bite the team if he finds with the Giants. Is this decision going to make or break the Jets' season? Of course not. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a poor move with questionable rationale.
The Jets made a mistake with Jason Pinnock. Here's to hoping that mistake doesn't haunt them in the future.