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Rookie Mini-Camp Invites + Free Safety Plan
☀️ Good Morning,
Hopefully, you enjoyed the deep dive on Garrett Wilson yesterday, I’ll be getting to more of those over the coming weeks.
First, we’re going to get into a little rookie mini-camp news as the Jets will hold their camp this coming weekend. I've got some invite news, then we're going to touch on the Jets’ Free Safety position.
🎟️ Southern University WR Marquise McClain has received an invitation to the Jets rookie minicamp. Marquis transferred to the Jaguars from Auburn after the 2019 season and caught 29 passes in 2021 for 413 yards and 4 touchdowns. The 6’3 receiver is an outside guy who had just 1 drop on 49 targets last season.
👊 Delta State linebacker Marvin Terry has also received an invitation to camp. The former Statesman finished the 2021 season with 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks as well as 62 total tackles. That gave him 33.5 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks over a two-year college career at Delta State. He was formerly at Trinity Valley community college.
💪 As well as QB Nick Starkel, the Jets are also bringing in QB Breylin Smith and Samford’s Liam Welsh. Of all three I would say that Breylin Smith of Central Arkansas has the best chance to stick. The big-armed QB threw for over 9000 yards and 84 touchdowns over the course of his college career.
🪖 Army’s punter Zach Harding will also be in camp with the Jets, known for having a good leg and good accuracy there is a good chance that Harding could compete with an inconsistent Braden Mann for the starting punting spot. Although if he’s hoping to stick in the NFL, he will need to improve that 3.83 hang time, which wasn’t good enough to crack the top 50 in college last season (min 30 attempts).
🕷️ Richmond Spiders linebacker Tyler Dressler will be attending the Jets rookie mini-camp. Tyler played in 10 games for the Spiders this season and was named First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association. He finished the season with 92 tackles while leading the Spiders with 3 interceptions, he also had 11 TFL with 2.5 sacks included. Jets GM Joe Douglas started 45 consecutive games for Richmond back in the day, so there are ties there.
🔥 The Jets may not have drafted Leo Chenal, but his brother John is heading to camp next weekend. The Wisconsin FB has a number of highlight blocks on tape, but he also has 5 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown to his name.
🐴 Western Michigan and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Ali Fayad will be heading to the Jets rookie minicamp. The 6’2, 250lb defensive end was born in Dearborn Michigan, the home of Robert Saleh, and collected 40 tackles including 18 for a loss, 13 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in 2021. He’ll be joined by teammate, TE Brett Borske.
🐾 South Dakota safety Elijah Reed has secured an invite to Jets rookie camp, the team his dad grew up supporting. The Jets had been in touch with Reed before the draft, and were on the phone as soon as the 7th round had concluded. Reed had 2 INT and 3 passes broken up compared to just one touchdown allowed. Reed split his time between a box safety and free safety at South Dakota.
⚔️ Rutgers long snapper Billy Taylor will be at Jets rookie camp on Thursday. A 5-year starter for the Scarlet Knights, Taylor has impressed over the course of the off-season pre-draft circuit, including a positive showing at the East-West Shrine Game. The Jets have Thomas Hennessy as their long-snapper and I can’t see that changing anytime soon based on how consistent Hennessy has been.
📊 During an interview on the Rich Eisen show, Jets GM Joe Douglas commented that they had Breece Hall as the 18th overall player on their big board. Whether you think an RB should be valued that high or not, the Jets getting him at pick #36 is a steal when compared to where they had him.
🗣️ QUOTE - Joe Douglas "I feel like we're a better team now than we were going into this weekend," Douglas said. "I feel like we're a better team now than we were to start the entire offseason. A lot of that credit goes to Coach and his staff, Rex [Hogan, assistant GM], all our personnel staff working together. It's just a real team effort to give us this chance to go into a season improved at some different spots, adding quality depth to the team, adding some guys that we feel can be explosive, dynamic playmakers for us."
The Plan for Free Safety
With the signing of Jordan Whitehead the Jets have solved 50% of their safety dilemma, but with the draft having come and gone there is some uncertainty with the free safety position.
Last season LaMarcus Joyner was signed to partner Marcus Maye in the secondary, but Joyner’s Jets debut in Carolina lases just 9 snaps before a torn tricep ended his season.
Joyner has very rarely missed significant time through injury having played in at least 12 games for 6 years straight before 2021. The Jets identifying that the injury was just bad luck re-signed Joyner to a one-year $2.6 million contract which is a slight decrease on the $3 million contract he signed prior to last season.
The plan right now is to have LaMarcus Joyner as the starting free safety alongside Jordan Whitehead. But with a modest cap hit, that plan can change if someone elevates their game during training camp. Joyners two best years came with the Rams in 2017 and 2018 after he was converted to free safety by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. For reasons only known to the Raiders, they reverted him to a slot corner after signing with them prior to the 2019 season, and his play dipped.
If Joyner can return to his 2017/2018 form which saw him record 4 interceptions and 8 pass breakups against 3 touchdowns allowed, the choice for Jeff Ulbrich and Robert Saleh will be an easy one to make. But Joyner will be 32 before the season is done, and hasn’t played free safety through a season since 2018, who knows how he’ll perform.
If Joyner does struggle, who could potentially fill that free safety spot?
The Jets 3rd round pick out of California in 2020 has had an up and down career to date. Davis has ended both pro seasons on injured reserve, but he did record 2 INT and 3 forced fumbles in 2021. But Davis has never looked that comfortable at safety, he allowed an 80% completion into his coverage last season along with 3 touchdowns and his run defense was poor at best, PFF gave him a 43.1 grade against the run and the angles he takes are questionable at best. Davis is entering a key 3rd year if he wants to establish himself in the NFL.
Much like LaMarcus Joyner, Pinnock was drafted as a corner before being moved to free safety where he looks considerably more comfortable as a rookie. His three highest-graded games were the final 3 of the season where he was a full-time safety, PFF marked him at 80.1 against Jacksonville, 68.5 against Tampa Bay, and 73.2 against Buffalo. He’s only been targeted three times as a safety so it’s far too early to read anything into it, but he’s an interesting option to watch this off-season.
Other options - I’ve seen people mention Will Parks, but he spent more time in the box and as a slot corner than free safety in 2021 for the Jets and that’s the same story for his time in Denver as well where he was used as a slot corner.
Kai Nacua is another safety on the roster, but Pinnock was preferred to him at the backend of the 2021 season and at 27 with 19 career tackles, I’d say he’s a long shot to make the roster this season.
Tony Adams signed as a UDFA out of Illinois and he’ll have a chance to impress, starting this Thursday at rookie mini-camp. Adams lined up all over the field for Illinois including 134 snaps at FS, and he’s one of the more athletic players on the roster.
Elijah Reed has been invited to the Jets rookie mini-camp and the South Dakota Coyote spent considerable time at free safety last season (361 snaps), at 6’2 and 220lb he’s a pretty big guy, but his testing numbers were pretty poor pre-draft, especially with running a 4.7 forty.
D.J. Ford has also received an invitation to minicamp, and although his skill set is more suited to playing in the box, he does have experience at free safety as well. He has good size at 6’3 but like Reed, he ran a very poor forty (4.83), with extremely poor splits (1.68) which likely rules him out as a deep-lying safety.
John B of Gang Green Nation gives his thoughts on how the new draft class will fit into their roles with the Jets: “Jermaine Johnson: After the Draft, Robert Saleh alluded to moving John Franklin-Myers inside to defensive tackle but added that he envisioned that happening on passing downs. This leaves the door open for Franklin-Myers to continue playing defensive end on early downs. I think this is getting into semantics, though. Saleh likes to rotate defensive linemen. Johnson can effectively play the run, meaning he can get on the field on early downs. And even situational pass rushers are seeing over half of the snaps in today’s NFL. Johnson is going to see plenty of action at defensive end whether or not he’s technically labeled as a starter.”
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