One game into the season, and one win, so things generally will be looking up at this point. A lot of Jets players are coming off strong performances the Week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns, from Brandon Marshall seemingly fitting right in to the team with his big play ability to Marcus Williams ended up making the most of his unexpected opportunity. Everywhere from the defensive line to the offensive skill positions the Jets had more good than bad to start the season. One of the more impressive showings on the night, second year safety Calvin Pryor.
His team-leading 10 tackles, tied for seventh among all NFL players in the first week, is already one-sixth of his full season total from 2014. Freed up from his deep lying playmaker role, Pryor was far more of a roaming threat, constantly finding the ball and making big plays. None bigger than the hit on Josh McCown in the first quarter of a still scoreless game, as the Browns quarterback was making a dive for a touchdown. Pryor helped force the key fumble that enabled the Jets to recover for a touchback. While the Browns still took the lead during a largely listless first half from New York, keeping those seven points off the board there helped limit the hole the Jets eventually had to dig themselves out of, in a game that did not always seem destined to be a blowout.
Calvin Pryor has a big role to play on the 2015 New York Jets, the strong safety position is arguably his to run with for the season. Pryor played 64 of 71 snaps (90%) last Sunday, after playing just 66.8% of snaps in his rookie season. It does seem that the coaching staff views him highly, as defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers mentioned Pryor's unique skill set in complimenting his Week 1 performance.
It did seem that Pryor's status took a bit of a step back after his rookie struggles, but a useful rule is to never expect too much from a rookie. Sheldon Richardson's early success might have set the bar a little too high here in terms of expectations, and it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Pryor took a little time to find his way, especially given how he was never a clear fit for the deep centre field role he played for much of last year. Of course, the talk of him being benched for missing at least one meeting last season was disappointing even for a rookie, and hopefully this is something he has learned from now, leading into his second season, where a team should really expect an early round pick to step into a larger role. There is an opportunity for Pryor here to do just that.
Pryor has a lot more help around him this season as well, perhaps a few more veterans off the field but certainly on the field. Darrelle Revis headlines a far improved defensive back cast, Marcus Gilchrist taken over the free safety role enabling Pryor to use his athleticism to go find the ball. Pryor as the strong safety role for this season, does not have to be limited to a box role. As Kacy Rodgers pointed out, he is a versatile player, and that versatility is likely a big part of the scheme for the primetime game tonight to try and show Andrew Luck a variety of exotic looks. It will help the team all season to have a productive and dynamic Pryor in the backfield.
As the Jets look to compete in part behind their talented but older secondary, Calvin Pryor could be a foundational piece not just in 2015 but in the years to come. Not to read too much into a single week, even such a productive one from a player with a strong college track record, but in the coming games we will hopefully see more of the Pryor who lined up against the Cleveland Browns. In an offseason with immense spending devoted to the backfield, Pryor could end up being the single biggest non-Revis upgrade in the positional group.