2020 New York Jets Preview: Safeties

2020 New York Jets
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At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. It is about doing what it takes not just to win one game but in the long-term. The New York Jets have had some disappointing general managers in recent years. John Idzik (2013-14) and Mike Maccagnan (2015-2018) both lacked that long-term vision. Poor drafts and a struggle to develop their players pushed them out of town. Finally, the Jets seem to have someone who is building it right – through drafting and developing.

General manager Joe Douglas did not want to trade superstar safety Jamal Adams. And no matter how much Adams voiced his displeasure over not receiving an extension, Douglas did not budge. He knew that between COVID-19’s effect on the salary cap and a potential Sam Darnold extension looming in 2021, it was not the time to extend the safety. Douglas said it from the beginning, given the state of the roster he had to listen to offers. But unless that undeniable deal came across his desk, he had no plan to move Adams.

Well, on June 25th, that deal went through. Adams and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for a massive haul headlined by the Seahawks’ 2021 and 2022 first-round picks. Douglas got the draft capital necessary to build his team the right way over the next two seasons. However, where does trading the team’s best player and arguably league’s best safety leave Gang Green? Well, the Jets are better set at safety then one might think. Here is the 2020 New York Jets preview – safety edition.

2020 New York Jets Preview: The Safeties

The Starters: Marcus Maye and Bradley McDougald

In the 2017 NFL Draft, Adams was not the only safety the Jets picked. In round two, the Jets selected Florida’s Marcus Maye. When coming out of college, both were seen as strong safeties. Yet with Adams there, Maye’s coverage skills put him at free safety instead. While he spent his rookie season adjusting to his new role, his second season was a different story. After missing the first three games, Maye finished as the league’s 11th best safety, with an 80.0 overall grade from PFF. Unfortunately, he only played six games after thumb and shoulder issues put him on injured reserve.

Back healthy in 2020, Maye’s coverage skills continued to impress. On his way to a 77.4 grade on coverage in 2019, Maye totaled seven deflections and only 50% of passes his way went for completions. Some may argue that Maye’s numbers were inflated given he played alongside Adams. Obviously, as a free agent after the season, there is no better time to prove doubters wrong.

Speaking of upcoming free agents, in the Adams’ trade, the Jets also received veteran Bradley McDougald. He may not be on the same level as Adams, but McDougald is not just any replacement. A respected veteran leader coming from Seattle, McDougald is also one of the league’s top man coverage safeties. With an 85.4 grade since 2018 in man coverage, his size and versatility will allow defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to have a field day with him and Maye in the secondary. As a result, the Jets may still maintain a strong safety duo even with the loss of Adams.

The Backups: Ashtyn Davis

When Adams’ was on the team, without an extension, his fifth-year option kept him tied to the Jets through 2021. Meanwhile, Maye was only under contract through 2020. Douglas knew at some point, another safety was necessary. And that need was taken care of on day two of the draft.

The Jets picked California safety Ashtyn Davis with the third-round pick acquired from the Leonard Williams trade. The 6’1” and 202lbs rookie is another versatile safety for Gregg Williams’ defense. A fantastic cover safety with ridiculous range, Davis brings a surprising amount of physicality in the box too. With Williams’ heavy defensive rotations, expect Davis to get plenty of playtime early on.

The Bubble: Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Anthony Cioffi, and Shyheim Carter

The Jets have a handful of different safeties on the bubble. First is the team’s fifth former Indianapolis Colts in their secondary – Matthias Farley. Brought in as a depth before the season, Farley was a liability last season when on the field. A horrific 26.2 grade puts Farley on the bubble, but he does have the most experience of anyone on the bubble.

Meanwhile, safety Bennet Jackson looks to finally stick to a roster. Having been in the league since 2014, Jackson has only played in six career games. With the ability to play corner in addition to both safety positions, his versatility is his biggest strength. He simply will just need to stay healthy, as IR stints have been common in his career. Similarly, former CFL starter Anthony Cioffi will look to make an NFL roster. Undrafted out of Rutgers in 2017, Cioffi brings athleticism and strength to play both safety positions. Though Cioffi has no NFL experience, he is a smart ballplayer who can do it all. Last but not least is Shyheim Carter – a versatile and undersized defensive back from Alabama. One of the Jets’ nine undrafted free agents. What he lacks in overall athleticism and range, Carter makes up for in his IQ and deep-safety ability. With Farley looking to rebound, any of these three could push him for that fourth safety spot.

Last Word on the 2020 New York Jets Preview: Safeties

The New York Jets safety room is full of versatility and talent. No team can simply replace arguably the best safety in the league right away. That is the task at hand for the Jets, and they may have the perfect plan to do so. Maye will start alongside McDougald, with Davis being phased in to replace one of them. While his experience gives Farley the upper hand, the trio joining him on the bubble are all going to give him a run for his money. The plan is clear on paper, leaving it now time to execute during training camp.

Stay tuned for the next article in the 2020 New York Jets Preview series with Special Teams!

2020 New York Jets Preview Series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Lineman, Offensive Tackles, EDGE Defenders, Interior Defensive Lineman, Linebackers, Cornerbacks

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