Did the New York Jets get an offensive line steal in UDFA Jared Hilbers?

New York Jets, Jared Hilbers

The New York Jets invested money into a lot of positions during free agency. Their biggest investment in the offseason was on the offensive line. They also spent two picks on the line as well. As they enter 2020 with a revamped line, they added another piece who was not drafted, and he may have the most potential of any UDFA. Jared Hilbers is that guy.

Strengths

The athletic tackle from Washington has a lot of potential. He caught the eyes of a lot of scouts at the East-West Shrine game and earned a lot of respect from scouts league-wide. Although he stood out, he didn’t earn a combine invite. The 6 foot 6, 270-pound swing tackle has a basketball background, which further depicts his overall athleticism. Hilbers is a moldable talent at tackle who has the ability to play anywhere on the line. If Hilbers continues to develop, he could provide immense versatility on the line. At Washington, he sat and developed behind two draft picks, Kaleb McGary and Trey Adams. He was able to shift all over the line wherever need be, and he played really well whenever he was on the field. His athleticism makes him a valuable piece to mold on the line.

Weaknesses

Lack of significant on the field reps is the only real qualm I have with Hilbers. Hilbers is a raw prospect as well who will need to be molded at the next level. The Jets depth at offensive line is plentiful as well. With Cameron Clark and Mekhi Becton also joining the Jets as rookies, Hilbers is going to have to compete for every rep. If he has one bad game, that could be it. Overall though, there aren’t a ton of flaws in Hilbers game, just need to see more reps to identify true issues, and that could be the reason the Jets don’t keep him.

General Outlook

Overall Hilbers projects as a swing tackle at the next level. Adam Gase loves his athletic linemen, and Hilbers fits the bill. If he excels in his opportunities on the field, expect him to stay as a depth lineman. He was a draftable prospect, and the Jets knew that. He got the second biggest bonus with 62,000 dollars. Hilbers is obviously someone the Jets staff likes, and if given the opportunity, he could be a steal. 

What are the New York Jets getting in UDFA CB Lamar Jackson?

New York Jets

The New York Jets signed Lamar Jackson! No, not the electric QB/RB that’s coming off an MVP campaign. Instead, the Jets got a corner (who played QB in High School) who was projected to be a late-round pick. Lamar Jackson, a CB from Nebraska adds versatility and continues to add more depth to the secondary. He could be a solid pickup, so let’s breakdown his skill set.

Strengths

Lamar Jackson adds a few key things the Jets like. Durability and leadership. He was the defensive MVP in 2019 after a breakout season. Besides that, he was a 3-year starter. Jackson is an accountable corner capable of being left on the island. He has an excellent size which makes him a very physical press corner. Do you know who likes corners like those? Gregg Williams. Lamar Jackson will fit very well in Williams scheme and has the potential to be an impact player at some point. He played his best football last season when he put up 40 tackles, 4 TFLs, 3 INTs, and allowed a 55.7 passer rating. Lamar is capable of being left on an island and is a player overall capable of being a starter at some point at the next level.

Weaknesses 

As much as I raved about Lamar, he does have weaknesses. Although he’s a lockdown corner against physical receivers and in the red zone, in the vertical game he leaves much to be desired. He lacks speed to hang with some of the speed threats at the next level. He lacks a strong football IQ as well. He’s a more matchup specific player who would excel in 1v1 matchups. If he can’t prove his worth on special teams and doesn’t draw the eye of any of the higher-ups, he won’t stick on the roster.

Overall Outlook

Lamar Jackson has some of the most potentials of not just the UDFAs, but even some of the draft picks. The issue is, he also is flawed in his game. Ultimately, the scheme fit is going to benefit Lamar’s chances of sticking on the roster, but he’s still going to need to develop his IQ and speed if he wants to be a long term NFL player.

New York Jets: UDFA Breakdowns, Lawerence Cager

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

Over the coming weeks, I plan to breakdown the little known additions to the New York Jets, the UDFAs. The Jets added a couple of new players with varying levels of potential and talent at a few positions of need. The Jets have had UDFAs turn into key contributors in previous years like Robby Anderson, Damon Harrison, and even the legend, Wayne Cherbert. The first UDFA breakdown is Lawerence Cager, WR, Georgia.

Strengths

Lawerence Cager is a very unique player with his build. Similar to Quincy Enunwa, Cager is a speed threat with the body of a tight end. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and can be a good fit in quick throw and bubble screen packages that Adam Gase likes to run. Cager has got a lot of heart, if you look at his track record, Cager has been a leader and willed his way onto the field despite injuries in the past. Lawerence Cager has the physical and mental makeup to be a contributor at the next level. With good coaching, his talent could be harnessed into a formidable outside option or a depth receiver.

Weaknesses

Although I mentioned the dynamic aspect of Cager’s game, he also lacks a developed route tree. He’s got very good hands and he’s a crisp route runner, but at times he relies on his natural abilities to make up for lack of advancement in turns of his route tree. Natural ability may work in college, but at the next level, it won’t be as easy. Cager needs to develop more in that aspect. Cager also has a talented outside threat opposite him in George Pickens. That drew a lot of guys towards Pickens and freed Cager up more. This gave Cager more capability to succeed against lower-level corners. That’s a minor note that could be something to watch though. Lastly, injuries may have been something Cager could overcome at times, but he still missed the end of last season with a serious ankle injury. It may not be that much of an issue on the surface, but deeper damage could’ve hurt the dynamic aspect of his game and slowed him down a bit. That will remain to be seen.

Overall Outlook

Lawerence Cager was a worthwhile flyer in a free agency. There are definitely good reasons for Cager to not get drafted. The concerns in his game and injuries are justified. Ultimately, Cager is not going to be counted on to contribute right away. If Cager wins a spot on the roster, Hines Ward will likely be a key guy to watch in his development. If Ward sees potential in Cager or any other young receivers, his eye will be trusted. Cager could be a Quincy Enunwa prototype at best, but at worst this was just a camp body. 

How Giants’ Joe Judge and Ravens’ Jon Harbaugh Approached Their First Drafts and Why It Matters

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Head coaches are selected from factors such as philosophy, the ability to hire excellent staff, and strong leadership. Once in a while, these coveted strengths are found in special teams coaches, including New York Giants coach Joe Judge and the last special teams coach to make the leap, Baltimore Ravens’ current head coach John Harbaugh. Let’s examine their first forays into the NFL draft as head coaches.

 

  1. QUARTERBACKS AND OFFENSIVE TACKLES

 

The two coaches both had to face their first NFL drafts as unproven head coaches, and their approach couldn’t be more different. In 2008, the Ravens were not comfortable with who they had under center. In 2007, starter Kyle Boller only started 12 games and threw a paltry nine touchdowns. The Ravens spent their first-round selection (pick #18) on Joe Flacco, a quarterback from the University of Delaware. Flacco has gone on to bring home a Super Bowl.

The New York Giants already began 2020 with a quarterback in Daniel Jones, but like the Ravens, they knew the importance of shoring up the offense by drafting offensive tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia. Judge and the Giants continued to bolster the offensive line taking Matt Peart (third round/pick #99).

The Ravens wouldn’t draft a tackle until Oniel Cousins from UTEP in the third round (pick #99). Cousins was waived in 2010 after playing both the guard and tackle positions in very limited capacities for the Ravens. They also drafted David Hale (fourth round/pick #133) another OT late in the draft. He played eighteen games before being cut in the 2010 preseason.

The Giants already spent elsewhere (including Solder, Zeitler, and Tate), so bolstering the offensive line in the draft was necessary to stay under the cap and give Jones some added protection.

 

  1. THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF RUNNING BACKS

 

The second round of the 2008 draft would also prove interesting for the Ravens, and while not comparable directly with Judge the Raven’s pick would showcase their similarity with the current Giants front office. They used their second pick (#55) on running back Ray Rice. The Ravens would release Rice in 2014 while on suspension for domestic violence. Prior to his released, he amassed 3 Pro-Bowl selections, 37 touchdowns, and over 6,000 rushing yards.

This selection is undoubtedly reflective of Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman and his staff after selecting Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. In just two seasons, Barkley has tallied one Pro-Bowl selection and 2,300 rushing yards. Both front offices believed in the value of running backs and what they bring to the offense. Whether or not Barkley’s value continues to satisfy the Giants’ front office and coaching staff remains to be seen, but the current evidence certainly suggests he’s doing his part to keep the offense running.

 

  1. DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE LINEBACKER PROBLEM

 

In the third round, the Ravens selected Tavares Gooden, a linebacker from Miami. Gooden struggled to stay healthy and was released in 2011. Judge refrained from drafting a linebacker so early in the draft, but the Giants already used some of their financial capital in March when they signed Blake Martinez, a proven linebacker, to a three-year 30 million dollar contract. Judge still valued drafting a linebacker and took Cam Brown late (sixth round/pick #183). The Ravens felt more confident than the Giants in taking a linebacker in the draft, but both organizations still nabbed one. At the same time, the Giants ultimately placed more value on a proven commodity in Martinez.

 

  1. SAFELY DRAFTING SAFETIES

 

Harbaugh used two picks in 2008 on safeties. Tom Zbikowski from Notre Dame (third round/pick #86) and Haruki Nakamura from Cincinnati (sixth round/pick #206) were both expected to be real contributors. Zbikowski played 56 games for the Ravens, including 14 games as a starter. Nakamura was a solid player but never became a standout before signing with the Panthers in 2012.

The Giants did its best to improve the secondary by drafting safety Xavier McKinney (round two/pick #36) from Alabama. He was First Team All-SEC in 2019 and recorded 82 tackles as a senior.

 

  1. TAKEAWAYS

 

There are a few takeaways from comparing the two drafts. It’s incredibly clear that the draft is impossible to get right. Most of the picks the Ravens were counting on didn’t last more than a few years. And Ray Rice may have had impeccable NFL stats, but his domestic violence charges made him rightfully impossible to keep. The only success story the Ravens had was Joe Flacco, but if you can hit on a quarterback, you’ve had a successful draft. What happens with this 2020 Giants draft is impossible to declare at this point.

Both coaches, though clearly placed value on offensive tackles, linebackers, and safeties, whether in the draft of free agency. They both clearly wanted to invest in protecting the quarterback, supporting the defensive linemen, and bulking up the pass coverage. These three things have been an anemic deficiency in the Giants scheme for years. Hopefully, Judge and Gettleman solved this problem through the 2020 draft, but only time will tell.

What does New York Jets’ rookie Ashtyn Davis bring to the defense?

New York Jets, Ashtyn Davis

The New York Jets selected a defensive back in the third round to the initial dismay of the fan base. The Jets faithful either wanted another receiver, an edge rusher, or a corner. Ashtyn Davis was listed as many as a safety, but that’s in the same way some listed Isaiah Simmons as a safety and some as a linebacker. Versatility is key, and that’s what Ashtyn Davis brings to the table.

Who Is Ashtyn Davis?

Ashtyn Davis began playing football in Santa Cruz, California, as a wide receiver. Davis has incredible athleticism, and he put that on display outside of the game. Davis was an electric hurdler for Cal and began in high school. He was a champion in 110-meter hurdles. On the field, his athleticism is one of his greatest assets.

Davis tracks balls like a center fielder. He’s got phenomenal sideline to sideline ability. He’s dynamic in the return game and on special teams as a whole. He’s a solid cover safety or potentially corner and a fun weapon for Gregg Williams. His athleticism allows him to be versatile. Wherever he can make an impact, he will. Davis has all the makings to be a great defensive back in this league.

How does he fit?

Heading into his rookie year, Davis doesn’t have a clear cut role. What’s more likely is he will be used in a multitude of ways. He can be trusted to come in wherever and make an impact. Davis will immediately be trusted to take over Rontez Miles’ role on special teams and as a backup safety. In the long haul, a good performance in 2020 could make him a franchise building block.

With Marcus Maye’s contract up along with Jamal’s in 2021, the Jets can’t afford both. Adams is the priority, but the Jets can’t tie up all that money to one spot. Despite being Jamal Adams’ running mate, Marcus Maye could still find his way out. Ashtyn Davis could be groomed to fill his shoes. With his incredible physical abilities and impressive on-field play, if Ashtyn Davis takes advantage of his opportunity, he could be an excellent pick for Joe Douglas.

NFL: Winners and Losers of the 2020 NFL Draft

The 2020 virtual NFL Draft is officially in the rearview mirror. With that, let’s take a look at three teams who helped themselves the most and three teams who helped themselves the least on draft night.

Winner: Baltimore Ravens

It seems as though the Ravens are just operating on a totally different level than the rest of the NFL. They have a stacked roster as is, and they still managed to fill their few remaining holes with great value picks. They didn’t make any head-scratching reaches or risky trades, they just let the draft come to them and took advantage of other teams mistakes.

With the selection of linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round, Baltimore got a steal and took care of a huge need. Queen was an instrumental part of LSU’s National Championship run and helps fill the void that was created once CJ Mosley left the last offseason. JK Dobbins in the second round was more of a luxury pick, but he provides them with an elite 1-2 duo who can take over for Mark Ingram in a couple of years as well.

Middle and late-round selections such as defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche, linebacker Malik Harrison and guard Ben Bredeson all provided great value and help the Ravens strengthen some of the weaker areas on their roster.

The Ravens were an elite team last year and have only gotten substantially better this offseason. That means the rest of the NFL should be very worried.

Loser: Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers are coming off of a great year where they won 13 games and fell one game short of the Super Bowl. This offseason was supposed to be the perfect opportunity to tighten the loose ends on this roster and be in prime position to help get Aaron Rodgers his second Lombardi Trophy. Right? Well, apparently not.

In what was being widely considered as one of the richest and deepest wide receiver classes ever, it was thought to be a sure thing that the Packers would draft a wideout at some point to give Rodgers another viable option in the passing game next to Davante Adams. In the first round, rather than give Rodgers another weapon, they decide to trade up for his eventual replacement in Jordan Love. Now, Love is a fine prospect with some intriguing tools, but this was definitely a questionable move for Green Bay that sends a dangerous message. They basically told their franchise quarterback that he has at most 2 years left with the team, and they wasted a prime opportunity to enhance their championship window with him by adding an immediate impact player at a much-needed position.

Then, with a bunch of great receiving options still on the board in the second round, they decided to draft a running back in AJ Dillon. Dillon is solid, but he’s more of an old-school back who is entering an already strong running back room with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Another missed opportunity. Throughout the rest of the draft, the Packers failed to add a single wide receiver. That is mind-boggling considering it was such a glaring need, and it will surely come back to bite them. Green Bay had multiple chances to greatly improve their squad here and they just didn’t take advantage of them.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

As a Giants fan, this really hurts to say, but the Cowboys had an outstanding draft. From top to bottom, Dallas filled needs left and right and stole prospects who had no business falling as far as they did. More times than I care to admit I kept finding myself uttering the words “how was he still available” to my phone or TV. They really knocked this draft out of the park.

Snagging CeeDee Lamb at pick number 17 was a huge steal, as the Cowboys added arguably the draft’s top receiver to an already elite stable of offensive weapons. Lamb, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield are going to make Dak Prescott the happiest man alive and give defensive coordinators nightmares.

Defensive back Trevon Diggs in the second round replaces Byron Jones and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore in the third was a tremendous value. Combine those with potential late-round gems in center Tyler Biadasz, who replaces recently-retired Travis Frederick, and EDGE Bradlee Anae, and this draft makes the Cowboys substantially better. I rarely ever take my hat off to Jerry Jones, but he did a very nice job here and the Cowboys are now legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Loser: New England Patriots

It feels weird to put the Patriots in the loser category. Very weird. But, there’s a first for everything I guess.

The Patriots actually didn’t have that bad if a draft. They took some intriguing guys, like safety Kyle Dugger and outside linebacker Joshua Uche, who is a bit raw but can develop into impact players. That’s not why I’m calling them a loser. The reason is that they lost a pretty good quarterback by the name of Tom Brady, and they didn’t draft a single one in return. They had chances to snag developmental projects like Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington’s Jacob Eason, or Georgia’s Jake Fromm, but they didn’t pull the trigger.

It’s certainly possible the Patriots might not have been sold on any of those guys, which is fine. They seem to be confident in 2019 4th-round pick Jarrett Stidham, and they can still add a veteran like Cam Newton or the recently released Andy Dalton. However, it seems odd that the Patriots didn’t at least bring in a late-round pick to add some competition for Stidham. Either way, the Patriots will look very different this season.

Winner: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are coming off a very disappointing year. With sky-high expectations and a boatload of talent heading into the season, the 6-10 record they finished with did not match. However, new general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski have hit the ground running this offseason and had themselves a very nice draft.

They got arguably the best offensive tackle in a deep class in Jedrick Wills. There are questions as to whether or not he can play on the left side after only playing on the right in college, but with the amount of talent and pro-ready tools, he possesses he should be able to adjust rather quickly. He and free-agent signee Jack Conklin should form a dynamic pair at left and right tackle, which was far and away Cleveland’s biggest problem last season. Baker Mayfield’s life should be a bit easier now.

Having safety Grant Delpit fall to them in the second round was a stroke of luck, as he’s a top 20 talent who just needs to clean up some tackling issues. Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott and linebacker Jacob Phillips in the third, tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth, and center Nick Harris in the fifth were all big value pick-ups who have tons of upside as well. This was an overall quality draft class for Cleveland, and now there’s really no excuse for them not to be much better this season and start living up to those big expectations.

Loser: Las Vegas Raiders

Ever since head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock took over the Raiders, they have certainly not been afraid to make bold moves with their draft picks. This draft was no different, as it was solid overall for the Raiders, but early on they had a few head-scratchers that definitely can be classified as reaches.

They made Henry Ruggs III the first receiver off the board when they took him 12th overall. That wasn’t so bad, as Ruggs is super talented with top-level speed and that big-play ability the Raiders desperately lacked. However, taking cornerback Damon Arnette at number 19 overall was confusing, especially with better options like Jeff Gladney and Jaylon Johnson still on the board. If they really wanted Arnette, they could’ve probably traded down and still gotten him as he had a second to third-round grade from most analysts.

Selecting versatile offensive weapon Lynn Bowden Jr. and receiver Brian Edwards back-to-back in the third round was also questionable. They reached for Bowden, who is most likely going to play receiver in the NFL, and I like Edwards but it seemed excessive to essentially make three of your first four picks wide receivers, especially since they had other needs. They had some good picks such as safety Tanner Muse, guard John Simpson, and cornerback Amik Robertson, but their picks on Days 1 and 2 drag their overall class down a peg.

Analyzing New York Giants Rookie OT Matt Peart’s Strengths and Weaknesses

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants crushed the 2020 NFL Draft. After years of disappointing offensive line play, Dave Gettleman and the Giants made it a priority to invest in the trenches. New York spent the fourth overall pick on an offensive tackle, Andrew Thomas out of Georgia, then doubled down at the position in the third round, spending the ninety-ninth overall pick on Matt Peart out of UCONN.

Matt Peart is not expected to be a starter for the Giants in the 2020 NFL season, but he has the potential to be a starter down the road. Matt Peart was not a big-name prospect after playing for four years at UCONN. However, he was an excellent prospect and a great selection at the end of the third round.

Many fans might not know much about Matt Peart, being that he played offensive tackle for the University of Connecticut. So in this article, I will break down Peart’s top strengths and weaknesses for fans to familiarize themselves with the Giants’ potential right tackle of the future.

Strengths:

Excellent Footwork

Matt Peart has quick, agile feet. He gets out of his stance immediately with an excellent kick step. His angle sets are nearly always perfect, and he has more than enough lateral agility to stay in front of opposing speed rushers.

The most impressive skill that Matt Peart possesses is his ability to mirror defenders off the edge. He can quickly shuffle or pivot and stay in front of defenders the entire way around the pocket. Peart’s agility makes it really difficult for opposing edge rushers to get around him.

Rarely do Peart’s feet get flat and stop moving. They also infrequently get too close together or too wide. He has advanced footwork, and it is the biggest strength within his game. His baseline of technique gives him the ability to be at minimum an average offensive tackle in the NFL. But there are other factors to Matt Peart’s game that give him a much higher ceiling than that.

Great Bodytype and Athleticism

Matt Peart is a tall, lanky offensive tackle. He possesses insane 36 5/8” arms, which are “some of the longest the Combine has ever seen,” according to Pro Football Focus. Peart’s long arms give him incredible length when taking on opposing rushers.

Peart’s size, athleticism, and length, as Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman pointed out, give him plenty of upside and a “sizeable ceiling.” Peart also ran a 5.06 40 yard dash at 2020 NFL Combine. His impressive measurables and athletic testing had him standout amongst the offensive tackles projected past the second round.

Weaknesses:

Inconsistent Hand Placement

As proficient as Matt Peart’s feet are, his hands do leave a bit to be desired. Sometimes his hands get too far apart, leaving a huge strike zone on his chest for defenders to grab and control him or to bull-rush through.

There are aspects of Peart’s hand placement to like, however. He does get his hands up rather quickly to initiate the contact, and he does do a good job of clinching the defender’s jersey to easily control them. But Peart can only clinch and control defenders when his hands get inside of their chest, which is why the sometimes erratic and too-wide hand placement can create problems.

Needs To Add Strength

Matt Peart is not exactly a big mauler at offensive tackle. While he has enough strength to get the job done in Division I football, he needs to add strength to be competitive in the NFL. There were times where he was bull-rushed backward in college, causing the pocket to collapse on the quarterback. Sometimes that was the fault of poor hand placement, but other times it was caused by a lack of strength.

In the run game, Peart has good vision and the athleticism to get to the second level. But he does not always make an impact when initiating contact with the defenders on the line of scrimmage. Sometimes he engages in the block and gets no push off the line. Its a bit of a stalemate, and that is OK. But when you factor in the additional strength he will be facing in the pros; it can be concerning. Especially when you watch the film and notice that there are plays in which Peart is actually the one being walked backward while run-blocking, which is obviously the complete opposite of what is supposed to happen.

But Matt Peart is not a weakling. He managed to total 26 reps on the bench at the NFL Combine. That is an impressive number with such long arms. Matt Peart has strength, but adding a bit more power and muscle mass to fill out that large frame will only improve Peart’s game.

Recap

A four-year starter for UCONN, Matt Peart is stepping into the NFL with plenty of playing experience. He also competed amongst other talented pass-rushers at the 2020 Senior Bowl. Nevertheless, do not expect to see Peart on the field much in 2020. The Giants simply do not need to rush him out there. They have the necessary depth at the offensive tackle position to give Matt Peart time to sit and develop. But being that his technique is already great and he has the prototype body and athleticism to be an offensive tackle in the NFL, odds are Peart will progress well enough to earn that starting spot in a year or two. I truly believe that Matt Peart was a steal at ninety-nine overall and that he will be a long-term starter for the New York Giants.

This article is also accompanied by a YouTube video of a film breakdown on Matt Peart. You can check that out here.

New York Jets Draft Pick Bryce Hall Shares Marriage Proposal on Instagram (Video)

After he was chosen by the New York Jets, Bryce Hall’s week got even better, as he shared a video of a successful proposal to his girlfriend.

No matter how your week is going, it’s going to very hard to stop how the past few days have gone fro Bryce Hall.

The former Virginia cornerback was first chosen by the New York Jets last Saturday afternoon in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Hall has now donned a ring before playing his first professional down.

On Instagram, Hall revealed that he proposed to his girlfriend, fellow Virginia Cavalier Anzel Vilojen. Like Hall, Vilojen partook in Virginia athletics, representing the school’s field hockey team as a back. She led the team with 26 points (7 goals, 12 assists) and helped them reach the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship in November. The New Zealand native also earned second-team All-ACC honors.

Hall shared his surprise proposal, which Viojen accepted, on Instagram.

“She’s in it for the long Hall,” Hall declares in his caption “excited [sic] and ready to start this next phase of life with my best friend, lover, ride or die and answer to all of my prayers!!”

In the video, Hall is asked by an unseen party what convinced him that Violjen was “the one”. He happily recalled Vilojen visiting him in the hospital after a broken ankle suffered in an October tilt against Miami ended his season.

“When she came to my hospital after I had broken my ankle, that’s when I was like, yeah this is the one, “It was 11:00 at night, everybody else went home and it was just me and her chatting it up. So I knew she was one to keep then.”

Hall’s engagement comes five days after he was the penultimate pick (158th overall) of the Jets’ 2020 draft proceedings. He put up 154 tackles and five interceptions during his four-year tenure in Charlottesville to go with 38 pass breakups. Of that latter tally, 21 came in 2018, which led the nation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets’ Last Draft Pick Might be Their Most Crucial (at least immediately)

The New York Jets’ sixth-round choice of Braden Mann raised some eyebrows, but the Texas A&M punter could be their biggest new contributor.

Ah, the punter. He’s football’s living, breathing white flag, a personified excuse to get a beverage refill or visit the restroom. His prescience, at least in his designated kicking duties, is a de facto admittance of failure to score, an admission of defeat that gives the other team the ball back.

Even a punter’s finest moments, at least when performing his designated duties of pinning the opponent deep can be erased. Few remember, for example, the New York Giants Steve Weatherford pinning the New England Patriots at their own six-yard-line after the opening drive of Super Bowl XLVI. When the Patriots were called for an intentional grounding penalty on the very next play, Weatherford became indirectly responsible for providing the Giants early momentum in the form of a safety. It set the pace for a 21-17 path to a fourth Super Bowl title, as the Giants built an early lead by scoring a touchdown shortly after. Whereas Weatherford’s part in a championship laid forgotten, it breaks the internet if a punter gets kicked in the fact on a return, as Spencer Lanning of the Browns found out the hardy way.

The New York Jets are certainly used to the concept of punting defeat. No one in the NFL has punted more over the last four seasons, as 339 drives have ended with a boot. By no coincidence, the Jets rank dead last both yardage and points scored over the same span. Their cumulative 21-43 record outranks only lowly Cleveland.

It’s no wonder why the Jets have spent the most recent transaction periods making headline news. They would spend their first top-three draft pick in over two decades on quarterback Sam Darnold in 2018. A $52.5 million payday awaited running back Le’Veon Bell, even after he sat out a whole year in Pittsburgh.

When it became clear that those two were mere athletes and not miracle workers, they brought in offensive linemen during the 2020 free agency process. Last week’s draft, rife with shifts via trade up and down the board, was equally heavy on offense. The team opted for further protection in the form of Louisville blocker Mekhi Becton (11th overall) before bolstering their receiving corps with Baylor’s Denzel Mims (59th). Using their next two picks defensively, the final day of the draft reverted to an offensive theme. Spell options for both Bell (Florida’s Lamical Perine) and Darnold (Florida International’s James Morgan) were chosen before another block in a logjam in the 120s. Secondary depth would in the fifth round through cornerback Bryce Hall.

Then, with their final pick in the sixth round, the 191st overall selection…the Jets took a punter.

Even at such a late stage, wedged between third-day interest enhancers like Zoom concerts from Luke Bryan and One Republic, the selection of Texas A&M’s Braden Mann raised eyebrows. Surely, the Jets could’ve used the pick further replenishing their needs? Interior blocking help in legacy fashion would go immediately after when Green Bay took Jon Runyan Jr. at No. 192. Robby Anderson’s departure left plenty of renovations in the receiver’s department…surely an option like First-Team All-AAC receiver James Proche would’ve sufficed? Options at furthering their pass rush and secondary were likewise available…so why Mann, the punter? Even the NFL’s historic ledgers weren’t so kind. Of the eleven punters with the highest averages in NFL history, four (including second-ranked Johnny Hekker) were undrafted.

The selections of Becton and Mims are the ones that already lasting long-term effects on the franchise’s well-being. But of the nine athletes added to the Jets’ roster during 2020’s virtual selections…Mann may be the one that can lead the team to the most immediate wins.

Regardless of your opinion of Darnold so far, there is no denying that the Jets are a team that struggles to reach the end zone on a consistent basis. Until that happens, a good punter is a must-have accessory in New York. The Jets got it right, or at least had the right idea, when it came to Mann.

Current free agent Lac Edwards, the overworked soul tasked with the excess booting, was serviceable (45.5 average) after joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2016. But the Jets can’t afford serviceable efforts right now. It’s similar to when a team substitutes an acceptable quarterback for an extraordinary, dynamic talent in the interest of providing a spark. New York’s defense, while packed with talent, can’t afford to begin drives with their backs immediately pressed against the wall. Last season, the possessions of Jets opponents typically just past their own 31-yard-line (an average starting spot of 31.26, to be precise) Only Tampa Bay (31.70) was worse.

With no traction made in Edwards’ case to return, the Jets offered a future contract to former Pittsburgh preseason participant Ian Berryman. But with the offense’s struggles and defense’s desperation being the critical issues stifling the Jets’ efforts to achieve a mere winning record, a more reliable commodity was needed.

Should he fulfill his potential, Mann can at least provide levity toward those crucial issues.

One could argue that Mann might’ve been available after the draft, but that probably wouldn’t have been the case. Not only did another punter go in the seventh-round (Atlanta chose Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter), but Mann literally had a career for the ages in College Station. His historic junior season saw him become a literal field flipper, as his 51 yards per kick became an all-time NCAA record. Other shattered records included most punts of at least 60 yards (14) and the single-game punt average tally (60.8 in a September tilt against Alabama).

Mann’s trek to history led to the 2018 Ray Guy Award (bestowed to the nation’s top punter) and unanimous All-American honors (joining new Jets teammate Quinnen Williams in such an honor). It takes a lot for a season that featured a 47.1 punt average and all-SEC honors to appear as a slight disappointment…but that’s just how hard it was to live up to Mann’s 2018 antics.

To top it all off, those complaining about eschewing defensive depth for a punter had their prayers answered nonetheless. The Jets shipped their final pick of the afternoon, the 211th selection acquired from Kansas City over to Indianapolis in exchange for cornerback Quincy Wilson. Instead of a potentially expendable final pick, the Jets now have a veteran that can truly compete for a roster spot and one that will work alongside former Colts teammate Pierre Desir.

The Jets’ selection of a punter is not the one fans necessarily wanted, but one they needed. Mann can buy an offense struggling to gain traction some time as they work out their growing pains. While the Jets have undoubtedly improved, no one is expecting them to engage in a scoring shootout with their Week 1 opponent. Chemistry must be developed on the offensive line and Darnold must find a new favorite target.

Until that time comes, Mann is going to be the one putting both sides of the ball at ease. He can give a defense a favorable spot to work with and alleviate pressure from the offense to score on every single play while they get their act together. Perhaps a microcosm of the Jets’ draft as a whole, Mann (and, to a lesser extent, potential kick return candidate and third-round choice Ashtyn Davis) is the type of selection that can improve all three aspects of the game.

The Jets’ draft class is set to be long remembered for what Becton and Mims accomplish. But the early stages of Mann’s career could truly fuel the opening stages of what the tri-state area hopes is a lasting franchise turning point.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants New OL Lemieux Discusses His Versatility

The New York Giants spent four picks in the 2020 NFL Draft on the offensive line. New York secured two tackles, one fourth-overall, and one ninety-ninth-overall. They then found some depth at guard with Shane Lemieux out of Oregon in round five.

Shane Lemieux was a bit of a surprising pick. The tackle position was weak for the Giants but they went into the draft already pretty strong at the guard position. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez are capable starters. But Shane Lemieux might be able to fill a different role.

Shane Lemieux Discusses His Versatility

This morning, beat writers were given the opportunity to interview Shane Lemieux via a conference call. He was asked about his potential role with the Giants in the near future and whether or not he can play the center position.

“I think I’m an offensive lineman,’’ Lemieux said when asked what position he plays (via the NY Post).

Shane Lemieux discussed his versatility, stating “versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you into multiple spots.’’ This is certainly true with the Giants as we have seen with the likes of Nick Gates. Gates has filled in at guard, tackle, and is now practicing to play center for the Giants in 2020.

The Giants will likely try Lemieux at center and see how it goes. Here is what Shane had to say when asked about potentially moving over to the center position:

“I feel like with center there’s a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and to just be more sound with what’s going on around you,’’ Lemieux said. “And obviously you’ve got to snap the ball.’’ – Shane Lemieux via the NY Post

Below is a video of Shane Lemieux pre-draft practicing snapping as a center:

The Giants will have depth at the guard position in 2020. Lemieux is a talented interior offensive lineman who understands the importance of versatility and durability. He missed only one snap in his four-years as a starter at Oregon. The Giants will see how he performs at center but, regardless, Shane Lemieux will be available to fill in at whatever interior offensive line position they need him to.