The New York Jets announced the signing of former Atlanta Falcons free safety Sharrod Neasman on Thursday afternoon. They also placed undrafted offensive lineman Parker Ferguson on injured reserve in a corresponding move.
Neasman, 29, reunites with Jeff Ulbrich, the newly minted Jets defensive coordinator who held the same position in Atlanta last season. The Florida Atlantic alum joined the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and wound up partaking in the team’s postseason run to Super Bowl LI. He wound up earning a special teams tackle in the historic loss to New England.
After two seasons with the Falcons, Neasman joined up with the New Orleans Saints during the 2018 offseason but did not make the team. Atlanta brought him back mid-season and he went on to post a career-best 44 tackles (two for a loss) and four pass breakups. Last season, Neasman earned the first two starts of his NFL career last season (subbing for an injured Ricardo Allen), as well as his first professional sack. In a coincidence that should delight all Jets fans, his first quarterback takedown came against Tom Brady.
At FAU, Neasman earned five interceptions over his latter two seasons, including one in a respectable effort against then-No. 8 Florida toward the end of the 2015 season.
In addition to his duties as a rotational safety, Neasman should also help contribute on special teams coverage teams. Bolstering the coverage has been a common theme in the Jets’ offseason newcomers, which also include Neasman’s fellow former NFC South competitor Justin Hardee.
To make room for Neasman on the 90-man roster, Ferguson was moved to the injured reserve. He earned All-Mountain West honors at the end of last season after a strong season at Air Force.
Per NFL Network, the New York Jets’ 2019 first-round pick is set to miss considerable time with a foot injury.
#Jets DL Quinnen Williams broke a small bone in his foot and likely will have surgery thatâ€™ll sideline him 8-10 weeks, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. That means no OTAs or minicamp for Williams, but he should be healthy in time for training camp.
Per Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, New York Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams will miss 8-10 weeks after breaking a small bone in his foot while working out at the team’s Florham Park facility. The injury effectively wipes out Williams’ participation in OTAs and minicamp.
According to Garafolo, Williams was doing on-field work when the injury occurred. Both reports from Pelissero and Garafolo indicate that Williams should be ready to go for training camp in August as well as the Jets’ Week 1 contest in September.
Nevertheless, the injury is a hard blow for a Jets team coming off the good vibes of a sizable yield at the NFL Draft in Cleveland. Williams, chosen third in the 2019 proceedings, enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, putting up 55 tackles, including seven sacks, and forcing two fumbles. As a rare silver lining in the Jets’ disastrous 2020 season, Williams received an All-Pro vote from the Associated Press for his efforts.
Under new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets are expected to implement a 4-3 defense for the first time since the Herman Edwards days. Williams moved from tackle to end in 2020 and could be replaced on the first team by incoming veterans Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins. An opportunity could also be presented for Kyle Phillips, who returns after missing most of last season with an ankle injury. Phillips made the 2019 squad as an undrafted free agent and earned 39 tackles, nine for a loss, during his debut campaign. The Jets mostly focused on the secondary during their defensive splurge in the final day of the draft on Saturday but did welcome in tackle Jonathan Marshall with their final pick of the sixth round.
It’s a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will draft a quarterback at No. 2. But what will they do with their latter Thursday choice?
If this is the most pressing of problems the New York Jets have for the remainder of 2021, they’ll be one of the most, if not the most, blessed teams in all of professional sports.
The Jets have a welcome dilemma when the first round of the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). They’re one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks, first choosing in the second slot before reaping the fruits of the Jamal Adams trade at 23rd overall. Though the second pick is more than likely spoken for…barring a jaw-dropping pre-draft surprise, the Jets will undoubtedly be taking a quarterback…there’s a major decision to be made in the latter station, a place where this draft’s predictability should be long gone.
When you’re a team like the Jets…coming off a two-win season, one even more brutal than this star-crossed franchise’s usual standards…
Make the quarterback as comfortable as possible
When it comes to the second overall pick, the Jets have answered the question of what. Unless they plan on starting James Morgan, their 2020 fourth-round choice who has yet to wear an NFL game jersey, they’re drafting a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.
Whoever it is, he’s going to need help, whether it’s through protection or weaponry (more on each of those in a minute). One of the things that doomed Sam Darnold’s New York career was the lack of stability on his end of the ball. By the time his third season began, no receivers from his rookie season (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the New York roster and his starting offensive line was completely different from even the year prior. The Jets need homegrown talent to help their new, young franchise man get used to the NFL game in a hurry.
The draft is also a more attractive option for the Jets to find offensive help because their last few big-ticket offensive arrivals from elsewhere (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) haven’t worked out. If they can build through the draft…and there’s a prime opportunity with 21 picks over the next two years…they can lay a foundation and rebuild a winning culture.
Big plays are here again
So the Jets need offense, but that decision begets a decision: should they take a box score contributor or build the wall in front of Wilson/Fields/Other?
In the case of the former, it’s been a while since the Jets have had a truly explosive offense. It’s only been five seasons since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker put up dueling 1,000-yard tallies during the bittersweet 2015 campaign, but that might as well be an eternity in football years. Making matters worse is that the Jets made little effort to keep Robby Anderson, the closest thing they had to a consistent playmaker. He posted career-best number in Carolina last season and now reunites with Darnold.
The Jets have assembled a decent core of veterans with Corey Davis and Keelan Cole joining the fray alongside incumbent slot man Jamison Crowder and sophomore Denzel Mims. But while drafting Mekhi Becton was a move no one could truly quarrel with, the Jets passed on name-brand receiving talent like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and future All-Pro Justin Jefferson. This supposed sin can be rectified at No. 23, where names like Rashod Batman, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, and Tutu Atwell should all be available. Sure, the receiving class is deep enough that the Jets could find a receiver at No. 34…the second pick in Friday’s drawings…but the lack of offensive firepower has reached crisis levels in New York. Over the past five seasons, have the Jets have reached the four-touchdown/extra point plateau in 16 games, a mark besting only four teams (Chicago, Washington, Denver, and the Jets’ blue roommates in East Rutherford). That lack of production is ridiculously unsustainable in today’s NFL, and it shows: that group, including the Jets, has failed to win a playoff game over the last half-decade.
Many have theorized that the Jets could take a running back in the slot, but the Jets have resolved that issue, if only temporarily, through an affordable one-year deal with Tevin Coleman and a trio of young projects (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams). Besides, the recent first-round running back crop…especially when it gets to the later stages has shown it’s not worth it, at least not for their needs. It’d be great to bring in a, say, Rashaad Penny (drafted 27th by Seattle in 2018), but they can’t afford to use a first-round pick on a reliable spell option with a first-round pick. If they do address rushing, a power option like Rhamondre Stevenson could be a valuable latter-day steal.
General manager Joe Douglas has had a small habit of having his football cake and eating it too, even if the dessert isn’t fully baked yet. When he took Becton with his first draft pick last season, he filled the big-play receiving potential slot with Mims, a Big 12 star from Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.
This offseason, Douglas has noticeably improved the team’s offensive chances through skilled talents that should at least keep fantasy football players’ eyes on Jets games (Davis, Coleman, Cole). He addressed the defense as well through 4-3 talents that will fit the preferred scheme of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. But the Jets remain understaffed on their blocking despite Douglas opening his checkbook for Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten. Their quarterbacks were still on the run and little has been done to rectify that this offseason. Dan Feeney is high in personality but low on analytical rankings. Corey Levin hasn’t partaken in a regular season game since 2018.
Thus, it might help to continue building their fortress around the new thrower and improved rushing attack. Blocking draftees rarely send the draft parties into a frenzy…legendary blocker D’Brickashaw Ferguson was booed by a fanbase lusting after Matt Leinart…but no one’s complaining when the quarterback has time and the rushers have room to move.