The New York Jets locked linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips onto their active roster and bid farewell to a substitute safety.
The New York Jets announced a series of roster moves on Tuesday, transactions headlined by further adjustments to the defense. New York (0-2) added linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips to its active roster and waived safety Sheldrick Redwine. Offensive lineman Isaiah Williams took over Phillips’ spot on the practice squad.
Phillips was a practice squad promotee in each of the Jets’ first two games and has filled in for the injured Jarrad Davis and Blake Cashman. He tallied a game-best 11 tackles in the opening weekend tilt in Carolina, his regular season debut in green. The Illinois alum previously worked with current Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich as an undrafted rookie in Atlanta and appeared in two games with the Buffalo Bills last season.
Redwine was part of the Cleveland Browns’ final summer cuts and was scooped up by the Jets shortly after. The Miami alum took over at safety after the season-ending injury to Lamarcus Joyner but was overshadowed by another practice squad arrival and former Hurrican, Adrian Colbert. Redwine had six tackles over two games and was mostly relegated to special teams during last Sunday’s home opener against New England.
Williams has lingered in the systems of several squads since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Akron in 2016. He was on the active roster for Sunday’s Week 2 contest but did not appear in any snaps and was waived shortly after.
The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon on the road against the Denver Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
The New York Jets’ 11th consecutive defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots saw several optimistic causes slip through the cracks.
The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets in front of a crowd of disgruntled metropolitan football fans…yes, folks, New York City is back.
New England’s Empire may be over…its destruction brought about by the loss of its superweapon Tom Brady…but it has retained control of the East Rutherford system through a perfect three-game slate over the last two seasons. That includes Sunday’s 25-6 triumph at MetLife Stadium, one that provided the rudest of introductions to whatever lingers of the Jets-Patriots rivalry to Zach Wilson, he of four interceptions in the defeat.
It’s often hard for the Jets to glean anything positive out of get-togethers with the Patriots, who have now won 11 in a row over Gang Green. Eight of those defeats have come by multiple possessions and the Jets (0-2) have yet to earn a regulation win over New England in their modern MetLife-sponsored home since the original staging in 2010. The 19-point loss provided more or less the same heartbreak New York has been accustomed to over the last decade.
Yet, Sunday’s defeat somehow featured several unique bastions of hope in the midst of another defeat…
The Jets’ run game enjoyed a significant boost on Sunday: not only did it triple its yardage output from opening weekend at Carolina (45 to 152, besting its total in all but one game from last season), it did so without the offensive line assistance of Mekhi Becton.
Jets running backs averaged nearly 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday, which could come up big for the developing offense as Wilson still seeks to solve the NFL game. Ty Johnson, for example, maintained his brand of New York consistency (50 yards on 12 carries) while Tevin Coleman burst up the middle for a 17-yard carry in the second quarter.
But Jets management is likely enthused by the progress Michael Carter made on Sunday. Carter, the team’s fourth-round pick from last spring, is expected to pull away from the Jets’ current committee set up and flourished in an expanded role against the Patriots. The 88 yards he tallied from scrimmage were most for a green rookie rusher since Elijah McGuire in 2017 (93).
With five interceptions over his first two games, Wilson could for looking for some non-aerial antics to assist him as he gets further absconsed into the Jets’ offense. The rise of Carter can help the Jets build some much-needed, sustainable offensive momentum.
For all the concerns about the Jets’ defense in the early going, the unit has held its own in the early going. The 19-point disadvantage seems ugly to the naked eye but the Jets have lingered in their defeats far longer than should’ve been possible thanks to some strong adaptation by the defense. Wilson’s turnovers should’ve buried the Jets but the defense kept the damage relatively in check, yielding 16 points from the four turnovers.
The Jets’ young secondary group limited attacks from New England’s receivers, as it was once again mostly running back assistance that sank their efforts. James White was a menace on both the ground and through the air, tallying 65 yards on 11 touches. Nothing more needs to be said about the 26-yard rushing touchdown from Damien Harris that dragged several Jets defenders in the end zone.
But the secondary assistance was very reliable, limiting opposing wideouts to only 69 yards on nine receptions, limiting rookie Mac Jones to mostly dink-and-dunk strategies. The pass rush also drastically improved, earning three sacks of Jones in the first half (Marcus Maye, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins being the lucky recipients). New England’s 260-yard output was Patriots’ worst tally against the Jets since 2014. New York could also take faith in a strong performance from C.J. Mosley, who earned 10 tackles in defeat and once against finished a Jets game without incident.
The former Raven was particularly enthused by a late defensive stand by the Jets on the Patriots’ final possession of the afternoon. New England was situated only 25 yards away from the end zone after a turnover on downs but earned only a Nick Folk field goal to create the final margin.
“I know it looks familiar to a lot of people, but I can assure you that this is not the same team. We’re always going to show resilience, we’re always going to battle,” Mosley said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “That’s the picture I try to paint. Even on that goal-line stand at the end, it was all heart for us. In the locker room, we told ourselves we had a great week of preparation, everybody came into this game confident. Now we’ve got to take it to the next level. It’s not on the coaches. It’s on the players wearing the uniform.”
The Jets’ offense was mostly stuck in reverse thanks to Wilson’s turnovers, but has another reliable receiving threat emerged?
While Jamison Crowder continues to recover from a bout with COVID-19 and a little more uncertainty has emerged around Denzel Mims (a healthy scratch for Sunday’s defeat), Braxton Berrios has picked up the slack.
It would’ve been easy for Berrios to get lost in the receiving fold after the arrivals of Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore (who hinted at his powers with 47 yards on a quartet of receptions), but the third-year is making a name for himself. Through two games, Berrios is the Jets’ leading receiver with 124 yards on 12 receptions. That includes a career-best 73-yard showing on Sunday while New England locked down Corey Davis. Berrios has also been a reliable prescience on special teams, as his 23.8-yard average kick return ranks 10th amongst players with at least two attempts. His 38-yard runback in the first half set up the Jets’ first of two field goals of the afternoon.
While both Cole and Moore seem poised to take over in the slot if/when Crowder departs next offseason, Berrios’ development is worth keeping an eye on. The former Patriots previously described himself as a “Swiss Army Knife” in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg.
“I have everything to work on,” Berrios said in January. “I think there is no one harder on me than m, and I’d like to keep it that way. I truly have everything to work on as a receiver, as a football player in general. Truly, I’m looking forward to doing that and coming back an all-around better player.”
The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.
The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.
That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.
Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.
But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.
Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.
But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.
This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.
The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.
At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.
But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.
Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.
It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.
Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.
The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.
They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?
Their first 53-man roster only came out yesterday, but the 2021 New York Jets already look different.
Per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Jets are releasing cornerback Bless Austin. The Rutgers alum and Queens native was projected to be one of the team’s defensive starters in his third NFL season. With Austin gone, the Jets wasted no time in adding defensive reinforcements, picking up defensive lineman Tim Ward, linebacker Quincy Williams (per waiver claims released by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network), and safety Sheldrick Redwine (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Each defender was released as part of Tuesday’s cutdown to 53-man rosters across the league.
Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed the departure of Austin shortly after Garafolo’s report. Per DJ Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News, Saleh was “appreciative” of what the 25-year-old Austin brought to the team but wanted to work with some of their even fresher talents. Sophomore Bryce Hall is now the most experienced cornerback on the roster, while the Jets also kept drafted rookies Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols. New York also opted to keep undrafted freshman Isaiah Dunn.
Despite an injury-plagued career in Piscataway, Austin was chosen in the sixth round (196th overall) by the Jets in the 2019 draft. He developed a reputation as a strong hitter but struggled in coverage. His New York career ends with 88 tackles (three for a loss) over 18 career games in green.
The Jets’ new additions continue to work toward the goal of bolstering the top defensive unit after the medical departures of Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis. Ward, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, had three sacks this preseason while Williams (the older brother of Jets defenders and fellow 2019 draftee Quinnen) is an experienced option that can help the defense tread water until Davis returns. Redwine has worked as a free safety and slot defender during two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
New York’s 2021 regular season opens in Charlotte against the Panthers on Sept. 12 (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
The lack of a proven force in the New York Jets’ cornerback group didn’t stop Robert Saleh from clearly defining his expectations.
The macabre gift of the New York Jets’ 2020 season was that things became so dire that any move they made over the offseason could’ve been viewed as an improvement. But the Jets’ offseason to-do list could stretch from one end zone to the other after a disastrous two-win season. Even with a cap space surplus, some area on the modern depth chart was going to be neglected and prevent the Jets from becoming immediate contenders.
It’s not hard to find the affected areas.
With matchups against four of the top five passing units from last season looming on their upcoming schedule (Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Houston, Atlanta), the Jets’ secondary remains undermanned and inexperienced as kickoff weekend approaches. The safeties at least have a slight safety blanket (pun intended) with Marcus Maye back on a franchise tag and Lamarcus Joyner, one of only five New Yorkers who are at least 30 years old, coming over from Las Vegas.
The Jets’ front line in the secondary, the cornerback area, leaves much to be desired. Only newcomer Justin Hardee (115 defensive snaps over the past three years) has more than two seasons of NFL experience and he was primarily brought in for his special teams expertise. Four cornerbacks have no experience at all, as the Jets spent the Saturday of draft weekend adding new names to the ranks. Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols arrived in the draft’s later rounds while Isaiah Dunn was added through undrafted free agency.
At the top of the depth chart, Bless Austin and Bryce Hall…a combined 23 starts between them…are set to take starring roles. Behind them lies a hodgepodge of journeymen (Corey Ballentine, Bennett Jackson) and undrafted youngsters (Javelin Guidry, Zane Lewis, Elijah Campbell, Lamar Jackson…no, not that one, obviously).
Head coach Robert Saleh isn’t worried.
One would perhaps expect Saleh, a defensive coach in several assistant stops throughout the NFL, to assemble a more worthy group of defenders for his first year as a head coach. When that proved to be unfeasible, Saleh worked with management to come to a relative compromise of stocking up on young secondary talent on draft weekend Saturday after spending the first two days preparing for the new franchise quarterback’s arrival. So far, he’s happy with the young clay that he gets to mold in his first season at the New York helm.
Saleh doesn’t care about where they’ve been or how they were obtained. He carries one burning question for his new young talents, one he carries with him from his days as the defensive boss in San Francisco.
“Can you win on third down? That’s pretty much it. It’s that simple,” Saleh said on Thursday, per notes from the Jets. “When you’re looking at traits, we had Richard Sherman, who’s all of 6-3, long, incredibly smart, and we’ve had Jason Verrett, who’s all of 5-9, strong and wiry.”
“So they come in all shapes and sizes but the dog mentality, the ability to win in man coverage, the fearlessness to get up there in press (coverage) and win one-on-ones. That’s what matters, because at the end of the day, when it’s crunch time and you’ve got to win in football, it comes down to your ability to win in one-on-one, whether it’s man, zone, however you want to count it.”
The current starters’ respective battles with gridiron adversity are particularly inspiring to a New York team desperate to overcome relentless vibes and reminders of the “same old Jets” concept. Austin, a Queens native, enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at Rutgers but injuries limited him to only five more games in Piscataway over his last two seasons. Hall might’ve been an opening round pick in 2019, but an injury sustained during his senior year banished him to the Saturday wilderness.
To their credit, Austin and Hall have garnered positive reviews in their early camp showings. Brian Costello of the New York Post said that Hall “looks like he is ready to make a jump” in his sophomore season while Austin has been a thorn in the side of Zach Wilson early on. Saleh has been pleased with the early returns, once bringing up the size differences in analyzing each defender.
“Bryce is so long and big. Bless is obviously more wiry and twitchy, but they both have an incredible mindset to get up there, get in your face, use their length, use their athleticism,” Saleh said. “What we’ve been doing defensively is we teach a little bit different of a man technique, obviously, and our zones. So try to get them the reps they need to be able to blend the two is not easy and it does take time, but these guys have gotten better every day.”
Just because Austin and Hall have the early edge, however, doesn’t mean that Saleh is going to simply hand the primary duties for them. Saleh has been proud to work the rookie defenders into the rotation, namely calling out Echols and Dunn for “(earning) the right to get a little peek at getting some run with the ones”. He’s also excited for the ongoing nickel group, which appears to consist of Campbell, Carter, and Guidry.
Saleh had a prime opportunity to add in some veteran talent. Both Sherman and Verrett, his former Bay Area proteges, were available on the free agent market, but he opted for a young revolution that can allow for the Jets’ new staff, headlined by Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to shape their new secondary in their image. Saleh compared the feeling to a roller-coaster on the Garden State Parkway.
“When you’re dealing with young guys, the excitement is like when you’re driving on the freeway and you’re on (empty), you’re like, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ It’s like a roller coaster, but at the same time, you see an unbelievable amount of growth happen from play-in and play-out, and day-in and day-out,” Saleh said. “I’ve seen teams win, I’ve seen teams have growth, you see everything. I’ve seen veteran teams lose, it’s a matter of gaining confidence, gelling, having the ball bounce your way and really getting confidence, and this group is a very confident group, it’s a very young, confident group.”
“They’re having a lot of success here in training camp and when they get to go against Green Bay, and Philadelphia, the Giants, and they get to test themselves against other players, I think that’s where you’ll start to see the identity of this team kind of take shape.
Maye will officially play the 2021 season on a franchise tag. How will that affect the New York Jets’ ongoing rebuild?
Tag, Marcus Maye is it.
Thursday marked the deadline for Maye and the New York Jets to come to a long-term deal. With the 4 p.m. cutoff long breached, Maye will play the 2021 season on a franchise tag worth over $10 million.
While the tag has Maye listed as the sixth-richest safety in football, there seems to a lingering sense of iciness between the safety and the team. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has claimed that tensions rose long before Thursday’s final horn, saying that the Jets’ offer went drastically lower than what Maye would be offered with the tag. Thus, 2021 has the makings of a lame duck season for Maye, who is coming a career-best campaign.
How does this affect the Jets this season and beyond? ESM investigates…
Ashtyn Can’t Butcher An Opportunity
After the Jamal Adams saga ended in a fruitful trade, Maye stepped up and perhaps created this whole controversy in the first place. A similar opportunity awaits Ashtyn Davis, a second year strong safety who is projected to line up next to Maye this season.
Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal during the virtual draft of 2020, went from walk-on to projected day two choice, perhaps falling out of the second round due to surgery following his senior campaign. His rookie season was a bit of a wash, as he struggled when thrust into action after Adams was traded and Seattle arrival Bradley McDougald was lost to an injury. Davis likewise fell victim to a foot injury that ended his year after six games (one start).
Praised for his athleticism and physicality, the Jets hope that Davis can enjoy a breakout campaign similar to what Maye experienced last season. Beyond him, the secondary depth chart is disturbingly thin: Las Vegas import LaMarcus Joyner, 30, brings experience but will need a truly impressive season to factor in the Jets’ long-term plans. At cornerback, the Jets stockpiled project defenders like Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols. Starters Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have a lot of upside, but are no guarantee.
Needless to say, a Davis breakthrough would definitely give their defense a clearer path toward the future.
There’s plenty of time for Maye and the Jets to change each other’s minds and it’s probably far too late in the offseason to consider a trade. But all signs currently point to a separation come next spring, so the Jets have to start planning now.
Both the 2022 free agency and draft classes have some strong names to keep an eye on. Marcus Williams, with whom Maye is tied in 2021 salary, should be one the marquee names, followed by Jabrill Peppers. The incoming rookie class is headlined by Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton (who could very well be a top ten pick) while redshirt sophomore Brandon Joseph could be an intriguing pick with the latter first round pick from the Seahawks. New York is currently projected to work with over $71 million in cap space in 2022, third-best in the league behind Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Frankly, the potential Maye exit always applies a certain amount of pressure of the offense. The past offseason saw the Jets in such dire straits that it was a near guarantee that at least one area was going to be neglected. A majority of the Jets’ offseason resources were shifted toward the offense and front seven, including free agency dollars (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Carl Lawson, Jarrad Davis). Their primary draft picks were dedicated to the offense, as each of their first four choices (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter) have been hired to put points on the board. If the anemic offense shows no signs of improving the season, the secondary could wind up woefully neglected again.
It doesn’t do anyone much good to write Maye’s New York farewell song just yet. But, if these next 17 games make up his final hours in green, it continues two disturbing trends in recent Jets history.
With Maye’s New York future in doubt, the 2017 draft class is officially an endangered species. Nothing more needs to be written about top pick Adams, but the class has been a scourge on not only the Jets, but the league as well. Three of the nine picks (including third-round receiver ArDarius Stewart) are already out of football and only one beyond the safeties (Texan-turned-Lion Chad Hansen) appeared in 2020 regular season action.
The Jets have not only had trouble drafting, they’ve had troubling keeping the homegrown talent that appears to have a future. Maye appeared to be on pace to break that trend, but the past few weeks have only commenced a countdown to his departure.
Could this serve as a commentary on the Joe Douglas era?
It’s easy to view this situations from both sides: Douglas and company want to see how Maye performs in year two of the post-Adams era and they save some money in the short and long-run (maybe the immediate savings could go toward secondary help and a backup quarterback…?). Maye believes he’s a top ten safety and wants to be paid as such.
No one can deny that Douglas knows the team’s needs and can work with an offseason budget, at least on paper. But there could be a lingering side effect of free agents being scared away by Douglas’ unwillingness to deal pricy long-term deals?
Simply put, there’s a little more pressure on the 2021 Jets to perform now, to showcase visible signs of improvement. Again, asking them to make the postseason leap seems like a little much: they’re trapped in a division with America’s powerful football sweethearts in Buffalo and there are too many established contenders to leapfrog for the wild card. But there has to be at least some semblance of hope out there, a “throat-clearing” year of sorts, something similar to what the Los Angeles Chargers did with Justin Herbert in tow.
Entering Herbert’s rookie year, there wasn’t much to be excited about from an LA perspective. They seemed destined for a rebuild period and were struggling to attract fans even when they were allowed to play in front of a crowd. But the Chargers went on to surprise a lot of people. Herbert had an exemplary rookie season and the team won seven games. Even their losses were impressive: they took Kansas City and New Orleans to overtime and sheer bad luck probably kept them away from a winning record.
Seven of the Chargers’ nine losses came by single digits and they won each of their final four games following a December shellacking from New England. Los Angeles is now everyone’s NFL preview dark horse and the good vibes attracted new starters like Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Matt Feiler, and Jared Cook to the cause.
Patience has paid off in the early stages of this New York rebuilding stage. But in certain regards, the time is now.
How do you think the Jets’ plans will be affected by Maye’s franchise tag? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and keep the conversation going.
What does the post-Jamal Adams era look like for a New York Jets secondary riddled with free agents? ESM investigates.
The Position: Secondary On the Roster: Bless Austin, Corey Ballentine, Javelin Guidry, Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Campbell, Sauqan Hampton, Ashtyn Davis, J.T. Hassell Free Agents: Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bradley McDougald, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Kyron Brown Reserve/Future: Zane Lewis
The Jamal Adams roller-coaster finally returned to the loading station for the last time over the summer, as the disgruntled defender was dealt to Seattle. As far as the Jets are concerned they won’t have to think about Adams again, at least for the time being, until the Seahawks visit MetLife Stadium in 2024. The Jets even netted a solid consolation prize in a pair of Seattle first-round picks.
But, a question lingered, almost forgotten in the hullabaloo Adams caused on his way out: what would become of the secondary he left behind?
Leadership duties turned over to Adams’ fellow SEC alum and 2017 draftee Marcus Maye, who took full advantage of a new year in the spotlight. Maye set new career-bests in almost every major defensive category and ensured the Jets at least appeared in the SportsCenter Top 10 with a pair of jaw-dropping interceptions. His efforts were rewarded with the 2020 Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.
But Maye is set to be a free agent this spring and the situation behind him is quite murky. Injuries prevented some of the Jets’ defensive youngsters from taking the next step in their development, though some (like fifth-round rookie cornerback Bryce Hall) managed to make the most of their opportunities.
It’s great to see the Jets managed to make something of an ugly situation, vis a vis Adams’ departure. But it’s going to mean nothing if they can’t settle their own affairs on the homefront.
Brown, who partook in three games (one start) in 2019, spent all of last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. As an exclusive rights free agent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a camp opportunity.
Farley may be brought back for not only defensive veteran leadership, but for his work on the Jets’ special teams. He held special teams captaincy last season and led the Jets with seven tackles on kickoffs and punt returns.
The versatile Hazlet, NJ native has partaken in ten games over the past two seasons with the Jets and Ravens after a nearly half-decade absence from regular season action. His versatility, having played both cornerback and safety, could warrant him a new opportunity in green.
Another defender who made his mark on special teams, Maulet possibly earned some brownie points with Jets brass when he did a serviceable job at safety over the final games. It’s possible Maulet could return on a third one-year deal.
"I think Marcus Maye played his best game as a New York Jet."
Shortly after his hiring, new Jets head coach Robert Saleh sang of Maye’s praises.
“I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously, they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece.”
In terms of the Jets’ own free agents, Maye would likely be at the top of the list of terms of potential returnees. He probably isn’t worth the Eddie Jackson-numbers that Adams was seeking just yet, but the Jets’ plethora of cap space could make him an intriguing candidate for the franchise tag (circa $10-12 million).
In 2020, McDougald became the answer to a New York sports trivia question, as he’s thus far the only yield from the Adams trade with a name. Unfortunately for McDougald, he failed to make an impact in the secondary was one of those afflicted by injuries (seven games). There’s no doubt that McDougald is talented, and the Jets could bring him back on an affordable short-term deal, though he’d probably have to battle for reps with Ashtyn Davis.
One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season, Poole was brought back on a second one-year deal and posted solid numbers before the injury bug cost him seven games. Through his time in Atlanta and New York, Poole has developed a strong reputation as a reliable slot defender. He’s more than earned another one-year deal, but, set to turn 29 in October, he might be seeking more long-term stability this time around.
Will They Draft?
It’s probably not a question of if, but when the Jets address their secondary on draft weekend. It also feels like these issues can be addressed as early as one of their Seattle picks at No. 23. Top prospect Patrick Surtain Jr. will likely be gone by then, but former receiver Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech could be around, as well as more of Maye’s fellow SEC options like Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) and Tyson Campbell (Georgia).
Richard Sherman, San Francisco
The big difference between the hiring of Adam Gase and the modern arrival of Saleh is the difference in who was praising the moves. When Gase was brought in, it was mostly hot-take artists who felt like Gase was an outside-the-box hire. When Saleh came to town, it was the players who were responding positively to the move. No one’s praises have been louder than Sherman’s from afar, as Saleh has worked with him in their shared NFC West stops in Seattle and San Francisco. Sherman told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that Saleh would ” turn that entire culture around” and he personally congratulated the Jets on Twitter after the move was announced.
This, of course, raises the question…if Sherman is such a big Saleh fan, would be willing to join him in his first head coaching endeavor? Sherman would be a great fit, as the regaining of his trademark brand of smashmouth football, as well as his championship experience, would be perfect for this team to pick up.
Jason Verrett, San Francisco
The more Niners the merrier, it would appear, as Saleh comes over from the Bay Area and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich represented the team as a player for a decade. That concept will probably only increase as players will seek to gain traction and stability in Saleh’s new schemes. Verrett would a comparable option to Sherman, though he’s younger and potentially more affordable.
While there’s plenty of talent available in this secondary free agent class, many of them are expensive names that are either past or nearing the end of their prime. Woods is nearing the end of his rookie deal after four serviceable seasons in Dallas, but he struggled in coverage in the Cowboys’ beleaguered secondary. While the Jets truly can’t afford to help someone else pen a redemption story, as they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own to no avail, they could make an exception for Woods and his flashes of potential.
Already in a tenuous spot, the Jets need to do something to bolster their secondary in the post-Adams age. Bringing back Maye, even if it’s through a franchise tag deal that would allow them a year of relatively consequence-free football to see if he fits in Saleh’s system, would be a vital first step in achieving that goal. Adding Maye back would also combat the issues of a free agent class relatively deep in experience while giving the youngsters whom the Jets have high hopes for (Austin, Davis, Hall, etc.) a familiar face to work with.
Signing Maye probably isn’t going to become the ultimate difference between the postseason and another trip home in January. But, if they miss out on him, the Jets better have one heck of a backup plan.
The New York Giants have built up their defensive secondary in the past few years. The Giants have invested numerous assets into their secondary, both through the NFL Draft and free agency. New York has added a lot of young, talented players to their defensive secondary. But the best part about all of these players is how extraordinarily versatile they are.
The Giants’ secondary will be versatile in 2020. Head coach Joe Judge emphasized versatility in his introductory press conference and he has just the right group of guys in the secondary to fit that mold. James Bradberry, Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, Darnay Holmes, and Julian Love are all young, versatile talents that will help the defense succeed next season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier McKinney played everywhere for Alabama — 323 snaps in the box, 227 in the slot, and 271 deep. Many Giants fans had hoped the team would select Isaiah Simmons fourth overall. Simmons was the ultra-versatile linebacker prospect that ended up with the Cardinals. The Giants took Andrew Thomas, passing on Simmons and his versatility, but they were able to land the next best thing in Xavier McKinney in round two.
The Giants’ other exciting draft pick in the secondary, Darnay Holmes, is also a versatile player. Holmes spent his entire collegiate career playing outside cornerback. Entering the NFL this season, Holmes will likely make the transition to the inside and be the team’s nickel cornerback. However, Darnay could compete for the second outside cornerback position. Do not rule him out as an outside cornerback just yet- Darnay has the talents to play both positions.
James Bradberry IV
James Bradberry was another new addition for the Giants’ defense in 2020. Bradberry was a splash signing for New York in free agency and he will serve as the team’s primary cornerback on the outside. But James is another player that has the versatility to play both inside and outside. He rarely played slot cornerback in Carolina, but he was sufficient when lined up there. Another aspect of James’s versatility is his ability to shadow any receiver. Bradberry followed the opposing team’s top receiver in each game with the Panthers. He will likely play a similar role in the Giants’ defense.
21% of James Bradberry’s career coverage snaps have been while aligned against Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, or Mike Evans. James Bradberry also recorded 9 pass-breakups last year, tied for 16th in the NFL. Also 20th in NFL passer rating against (78.9) min of 550 snaps (PFF). Bradberry is also the oldest player in the Giants’ secondary at only 26-years-old.
Jabrill Peppers displayed his versatility in his first season with the Giants in 2019. Entering the NFL Draft in 2017, Peppers was considered a “Swiss Army Knife.” He truly did it all in college, lining up all over Michigan’s defense and making a significant impact on special teams. Peppers was mainly a box safety with the Giants last season, but he did line up in the slot and at free safety on numerous occasions.
In 2019, rookie defensive back Julian Love was a pleasant surprise on the Giants’ defense. The fourth-round pick was projected as a slot cornerback upon being drafted. However, he ended up converting to the safety position in the NFL. But Love still has his coverage skills from college and could compete for the Giants’ second outside cornerback position in 2020.
Julian Love could potentially line up all over the defense in 2020. He could line up as an outside cornerback, move back into the slot, and continue to play both free and strong safety. Adding Xavier McKinney into the mix with an already strong tandem in Love and Peppers could give the Giants one of the best safety groups in the NFL.