The New York Jets will report to 2023’s training camp in a little over two weeks with all eyes on the free safety competition. Of all the Jets’ upcoming roster battles, this one could be the team’s most important.
The New York Jets’ Biggest Roster Weakness in 2023
The Off-Season Narrative Around the Jets
The Jets have come a long way over the past couple of years. In 2020, the team was devoid of talent. Now they are a force to be reckoned with.
Entering 2023, the Jets have Super Bowl aspirations. This is mainly due to the arrival of future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. There are questions along the offensive line, but there is also plenty of talent.
The defense is coming off a dominant season in 2022. They ranked as the fourth best unit in terms of points allowed per game. A large part of that was down to (arguably) the best cornerback tandem in football, with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed.
However, they also have a pretty glaring weakness: free safety.
The Weakness at Free Safety
LaMarcus Joyner manned free safety last year and, while he was not awful, he was clearly the obvious weak link in the defense. According to PFF, Joyner allowed 71.4% of passes to be completed into his coverage, including four touchdowns. He also had a missed tackle rate of 14.5%.
Joyner headed to free agency and the Jets made a move to replace him by trading for Baltimore Ravens safety Chuck Clark. Unfortunately for the Jets (and Clark), he sustained an ACL injury that will rule him out for the entire 2023 season.
Surgery was a success Preciate everybody reaching out showing love and support. Now the rebuild and recovery starts… road to 2024 comeback player of the year !!
— Chuck Clark (@ChuckC36) June 30, 2023
Despite the setback, the Jets were quick to replace Clark with former Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos.
How will the New York Jets’ 2023 Free Safety Position Look?
Amos has been a good safety for a long time. However, lot of his best work has come close to the line of scrimmage. This means that, now having tipped over to the wrong side of 30, it is unlikely that his coverage stats are going to improve much.
Over the last two years, Amos has allowed 12 receiving touchdowns. Last year, quarterbacks enjoyed a passer rating of 123.8 when targeting players covered by Amos.
As mentioned earlier, the Jets have two of the best cornerbacks in football, which will likely siphon passes inside toward the safeties. Jordan Whitehead will act as the strong safety, which would leave Amos to act as the free safety.
If the Jets elect to play more single-high, quarterbacks will almost certainly look at Amos as a matchup advantage. It would not be surprising to see teams move their best receiver away from Sauce and into the slot, either to be picked up by Michael Carter II or the free safety.
The Jets could, however, elect to play Tony Adams as the free safety. The former Illinois man saw over 100 defensive snaps with the Jets last year as a UDFA and brings plenty of athleticism to the position. Despite that, he is largely unproven at the NFL level, which is a risky strategy for a defense that expects to be within the top five.
The positive is that Joyner was not very good last year and the Jets were still one of the best defenses in football. Therefore, logic would dictate that they just need Joyner-level production from either Amos or Adams. However, as teams probably will not target Sauce Gardner as much this year, there is added attention and pressure on the safety group.
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