A Look at the Jets’ New Safeties After the 2017 Draft
Breaking down what Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye bring to Gang Green.
Okay, let me get one thing out of the way really quick:
As you can tell, Jets fans should be very happy with the Jets selection of Jamal Adams in the first round. A few weeks ago, I said that the Jets could not afford to be stingy or go for a super flashy pick in the first round. The secondary was one of the worst, if not THE worst, in the league last season and needed serious improvements. There was wide consensus that Jamal Adams would not fall to the Jets at six. Teams before the Jets also had problems with their secondary and many thought that Adams, one of the best players in the draft, would get snagged before the Jets selected. A few surprises happened last night, namely the Bears trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky at two. This was a strange move to say the least, considering that the Bears just spent $15 million on Mike Glennon. Yes, Mike Glennon got $15 million. After the Bears selected, the 49ers picked Solomon Thomas of Stanford, the Jaguars went with Leonard Fournette, and finally the Titans picked Corey Davis of Western Michigan.
So, much like the draft of 2015 where Leonard Williams fell to the Jets, they went with the “safe pick” in Adams. To get a better idea of his abilities and skillset, watch this highlight video. One of the best aspects of the Adams pick is that he is very versatile. He has the flexibility to move from free to strong safety on the fly, he can cover tight ends, and has the skills to crash the backfield. Expect to see Adams in plenty of safety blitzes next season, as he is fast enough (ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine) to stay with running backs moving to the outside and to devastate a quarterback.
Marcus Maye was the Jets second round selection in this year’s draft. A defensive back out of Florida, Maye was a three-year starter with the Gators, playing up until he broke his arm last season. While many people watching, including myself, questioned the Jets pick of another safety, it did show that the front office was serious about fixing the secondary. Maye was looked at by some as a possible first round talent, so he certainly has a lot of value for this Jets defense. Here is his highlight video that will help you visualize his skills. He’ll serve as solid number two to Adams in the years to come, a Robin to Adams’ Batman so to speak. Much like Adams, he’ll be able to switch between safety positions should the need arise which is a very valuable commodity for any secondary. He’ll be able to go out there week one and be effective.
You may be asking yourself then, why did Maye fall to the second round? Well, he’s shown that he can be beat by quicker receivers. Obviously, this is something that has plagued Jets defenders in the past and is a legitimate concern. In addition, safety is not a premium position like say, cornerback is. Much like Pryor, Maye is more suited to lining up closer to the line of scrimmage in the box. So, while there is some unease there, Maye should develop with some help from the coaches into a good defender.
Now with the picks of Adams and Maye, what does this exactly mean for players like Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist? Tough to say as of now, but I would expect one of them to not be on the roster soon enough. Pryor may, and I stress may, be decent enough to warrant a trade for a late round pick. Gilchrist is not good enough to get anything in return via trade so he would be released if anything.
Calvin Pryor has been just ok since the Jets drafted him but certainly has not showed he was worth the first-round selection. The strongest aspect of his game is run support, as he can move into the box and catch a running back that has gotten past the defensive line and bring him down. He is also a solid tackler, he can crush players running across the middle of field which is a valuable commodity in the NFL. Where he struggles is pass coverage, and he is a big reason the Jets secondary struggled in that area last season. Since Adams is more of an all-around player that can excel in both of those areas, Pryor could be on the outs. Also, since Maye was selected, it is all but assured that Pryor will at very least but relegated to a non-starter role.
Marcus Gilchrist, to put it bluntly, stunk last season. The most important part of being a free safety is watching the quarterback and playing pass coverage. Gilchrist did not do either one of those well last season. Adams has the ability to do both of those very well, so things don’t look good for Gilchrist.
If I’m Mike Maccagnan and I am choosing which one to let go, I’m releasing Gilchrist. He was good for the Jets in 2015 but suffered such a serious downturn in 2016 that his roster spot should go to Adams. This is all not to mention that the Jets can save $6 million by cutting Gilchrist, so it makes sense financially as well.
Without a doubt, Adams is a week 1 starter for the Jets. He isn’t someone that has to learn from veterans or sit on the bench, only playing sparingly. While he isn’t a lockdown corner that will erase one side of the field like Darrelle Revis was in his prime, he is a very strong building block that will improve the Jets secondary immediately. Maye will serve as a very strong support player for Adams that will help anchor the top of the Jets pass defense going forward.