The New York Jets nearly played a dozen safeties in 2021. As a group, there were several key injuries to important players. This led to a ton of youth and inexperience learning on the fly. It was an aspect of the defense that struggled last year. Heading into the 2022 offseason, the position had to be addressed.
Ultimately, Joe Douglas got the job done in signing Jordan Whitehead. He is a strong safety heading into his fifth year, which he will play at 25-years-old. Whitehead is a young player who should continue to improve and play his prime years in the near future. He is a physical presence in the box who will bring toughness to the Jets’ defense, a needed element to the unit.
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Jets’ safety position battles:
Alongside Whitehead, the starting free safety may be a training camp competition. The players a part of the competition look to be Lamarcus Joyner, Ashtyn Davis, and Jason Pinnock. Joyner is the experienced veteran of this group. He re-signed with the Jets shortly before the start of free agency. In Davis and Pinnock are youth, athletic ability, and greater upside. Gaining more reps at free safety will be key for them both to develop. Both are recent draft picks, with Davis in his third year and Pinnock in year two.
The next two with a chance of competing in this group are Elijah Riley and Will Parks. Riley was added by the Jets last November. He immediately took on a sizable role with all of the injuries and overall instability at the safety position. He showed some encouraging things for a young player. Parks is now a seventh-year veteran with 76 games played in the league.
Undrafted rookie Tony Adams is a player worth noting. He provides some of the key attributes for a free safety. He offers range with his 4.47 speed, ball production, and coverage ability as an experienced corner. Adams showed some of his great athleticism testing before the draft at his pro day. His explosiveness and 20-yard shuttle graded exceptionally well.
In the end, this is a group that has questions but looks to be improved. The addition of Whitehead with a healthy Joyner gives the group two experienced upgrades. Hopefully, the younger players in Davis, Pinnock, Riley, and Adams can develop. Parks will bring this unit a leadership presence.